publishing.jpgThat is the title of an editoral by Edward Nawotka, at Publishing Perspectives, about what Apple may have in mind for the future. Go read it.

Apple is, if anything, the master of keeping it simple and, very often, attractive. And this is, I believe, one of the reasons that the launch of iBooks should give pause to many publishers. Now that Apple is in the “book space” with its own branded retailer, it’s only a short leap before they become publishers themselves. Just look at what Amazon has done since the launch of its Kindle, with the company launching a variety of publishing and self-publishing initiatives under their umbrella. In fact, on Tuesday, Amazon announced the first four original manuscripts to be published under it publishing imprint, AmazonEncore program; all discovered through its own Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.

I would argue that Apple is in an equally strong position to become a publisher. Apple’s iPhoto software already offer users the opportunity to create photo albums based on templates which can then be easily converted into attractive bound books. It would take only a little effort for Apple to add similar functionality to its iWork software and to allow users to easily convert a document and images into an e-book, which could then be instantly uploaded to iBooks for sale.


  1. Okay. Let’s assume this actually happens.
    (Never mind that Garage Band didn’t lead to Apple getting in the music publishing business.)

    So. What?
    There’s no law of nature that prohibits anybody from getting into the publishing business. Just as there is no law that prohibits (smart) publishers from getting into the retail business.

    On the other hand, there is this law of nature called the Second law of Thermodynamics that mandates that the future will be different from the past. Crying wolf every time something changes got old long ago; if the publishing industry is evolving beyond their ability to cope, maybe the big publishers should look for a new business.

    I’m not fan of Apple but if they can find worthwhile content or offer authors/readers a better deal than the BPHs, why shouldn’t they? If Apple (or Amazon) can find a way to make money in ways the fat-dumb-and-lazy BPHs have neglected that is to their credit and to the BPHs’ shame.

    Apple is a software publisher; if they want to get into book publishing they should be *encouraged*. They might succeed, they might fail; let the chips fall where they may.

    Competition is good; more competition is better.

  2. So, Apple may start a publishing platform… that will essentially be just like Amazon’s DTP platform. And exist alongside the Smashwords platform that gets indie publishers into the Kobo, B&N and Sony sites…

    Big deal. Apple will just be one amongst many. They need to do a lot more than just show up to give people (and publishers) a compelling reason to go with them over others. And if they do no better than existing services, don’t expect publishers to be bothered with them.

  3. Ain’t gonna happen. First, publishing has neither chicness nor cachet today, both of which Jobs craves. Second, the iPad will be one of the poorer devices available for reading, which I don’t think would be the case if Jobs was contemplating becoming a publisher. He’d want to dominate both the hard and soft parts of the market, something he isn’t going to do with the current iPad versions. Third, the iPad demonstrates that Jobs truly does believe that most people don’t read. If he thought otherwise, he would have made the reading capabilities of the iPad superior to what is currently or will shortly be available in the marketplace. Instead, he soft-balled it. Nope, Apple Publishing ain’t gonna happen.

  4. I doubt it’s going to happen. I was talking with my friend Travis the other day (the guy who occasionally argues with me here :)) and he made a pretty good point: Apple is all about selling the hardware, and as far as he can tell runs its stores at pretty much a break-even point (at least compared to the margins Apple makes on hardware), because they help sell the hardware.

    He was saying this was why he doubted Apple would kick out Fictionwise or other companies with their own e-book stores—they help sell hardware, too, and Apple doesn’t have to carry their overhead costs.

    But it seems to me this is also why Apple wouldn’t bother to get into the publishing industry itself. The margins on publishing are considerably lower even than Apple’s content stores, and the fact that publishers are in so much trouble now over Amazon’s downward pressure on their pricing suggests it could even be a money-loser.

    Why would Jobs want to go into such a chancy line of business when he has other companies to handle that sort of thing for him? He doesn’t need to be a publisher, too, as long as he can get content from other publishers (and, for that matter, so can other e-book stores/apps).

  5. This article has one major fallacy– the idea that self-publishing is in any way, shape, or form a danger to traditional publishing. It isn’t.

    A vast majority of self-published works have very few sales, and with the immense number of traditionally published books out, most serious readers, so far, have read self-pubs as an addition instead of as a replacement for those traditional books.

    There have been only a few exceptions. Erotica started out either self-published or indie-ebook published but as soon as it began to break out into serious money, the traditional publishers moved in and siphoned away much of the profit as the readers went back to their old buying habits.

    The other exception is authors who have already developed a brand and a fan base who have moved from traditional publishing into self-publishing.

  6. I agree; whatever Nawotka’s been drinking, I don’t want any part of it. To start: Apple has not gotten involved in publishing music. To continue: book publishing is not a growing, big-margin business. (Remember a couple years ago Steve Jobs in one of his presentations talked about how big a market mobile phones was, and he’d like a small percentage of that; remember when he introduced the iPod with the camera and talked about the Mino Flip camcorder, and said ‘We’d like a piece of that market;’ now imagine his presentation where he says, ‘Publishers lost so many hundred millions of dollars last year … we’d like to lose some of that money.’)

    Finally, though both Amazon and, to a much greater extent, Barnes and Noble, have dipped their toes into publishing, these are both companies whose identities and business are wrapped around books and book-selling. For Apple, the iBooks is a lot more of the ‘hobby’ Mr Jobs claims the Apple TV is.

  7. Nawotka’s article is a silly one. Take, for instance, his claim of “premium pricing.” He must be the only person on the planet claiming that. Pundits were suggesting a price just under $1000. It starts at half that and only $10 more than Amazon’s similarly sized Kindle that has far fewer features. Those in the know are pointing out that the pricing is so low, makers of inexpensive netbooks are in a panic.

    But, as other posters have noted, his silliest claim is that Apple plans to become a publisher. That’s odd. In no other area, including music, has Apple chosen to move from creative hardware/software and distribution to publishing their own stuff. His examples makes no sense. Apple isn’t Amazon, and Apple’s iPhoto software is for printing for family use not publishing.

    I could point to other examples, but why bother.

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