Earlier today, I noted the complete absence of e-book-related announcements from the WWDC keynote. On The Digital Reader, Nate Hoffelder called my attention to an iBooks-related announcement elsewhere. iBooks is announcing a new romance novel imprint called “iBooks Editions,” which features novels incorporating “exclusive bonus material.” The e-books range from $3 to $5, and four of them are free. Clicking the link will fire up iTunes to the Editions page.
The “bonus material” is stuff like additional scenes and epilogues that weren’t in the previously-published edition of the book. I downloaded one of the freebies, Maid for Love, and found a 24-page “Bonus Epilogue” listed in the table of contents. (Given that I haven’t and don’t plan to read the book, I have no idea how much said epilogue does or does not add. Perhaps voracious romance reader Joanna Cabot might take a look?)
Like Nate, and like Score Publishing CEO Bradley Metrock, I find myself extremely underwhelmed. This was the most that Apple could think to announce at WWDC concerning e-books? Adding bonus chapters to a few romance novels, which are already the hottest-selling category of e-books anyway? There are so many other categories of e-books that could use some love, too.
But even assuming this is just a pilot program and will soon be expanded to those other categories, the idea of republishing with bonus content isn’t exactly new. (Nor is it original to e-books. Just look at DVDs and Blu-rays!) If this is the best Apple can come up with to improve its moribund e-book market, Steve Jobs’s lack is being very sorely felt indeed. As Metrock puts it:
It is amazingly jarring to see Apple flail about, trying random things like this, while clearly lacking any sort of vision for where it wants to lead the market.
Even more bizarre is the realization that the same company doing exclusive deals for racy romance content, while eschewing educational content (or any other type of content at all), is the exact same company trying to grow its market share in America’s schools with iPads and Mac computers.
Given its generic nature, it’s not even a particularly brandable brand name. Google “iBooks Editions” and the top three links are about Harry Potter being published on iBooks. Because, after all, the edition of the book you publish through iBooks is its “iBooks edition.” When I did my usual Google Image Search to try to find a fitting image to accompany this story, I didn’t find anything relevant to the new romance imprint.
It’s not exactly surprising that this didn’t rate a mention in the two-hour keynote. It’s not the kind of improved functionality or new feature that was seen in every app or operating system they discussed. It’s a postscript. It’s hardly even worth mentioning, save that such a trivial improvement is the best thing Apple could come up with for what was formerly seen as one of the iPad’s great killer applications.
Nobody expects Apple to be able to go from zero to meaningful Amazon competitor in ten seconds—but if it was seriously planning to try, it would surely have more to announce than this. I stand by my earlier opinion that Apple simply doesn’t care about e-books anymore.