imageEarlier 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.


  1. The bad news is that apparently no one in Apple’s corporate offices cares about ebooks—or even books in general. That’s your point. For them, deep thinking means listening to Bono and really deep thinking means Elton John. For that, I pity them. Rock music has only a little more depth about facing life’s challenges that my first-grade primer’s “See Spot run.” It rarely strays beyound current feelings about music, sex and drugs.

    But the good news is that no one in Apple’s corporate offices cares about ebooks. In the corporate world, being unseen has its advantages.

    That means its iBooks team isn’t under pressure to deliver ever-larger profits. It means that Apple can pay the best royalties in the indusry and sell under some of the best terms. It means that Apple doesn’t try for exclusives like Amazon. It means that Apple’s iBooks reader is the best implementation of industry-standard epub, unlike Amazon’s proprietary standards. Being ignored by corporate masters does have advantages. Contrast that to Apple engineers, who must turn out products with designed-in obsolence, typically baseline Macs and iPhones with grossly inadequate storage and high prices to upgrade to an adequate amount. Sleazy. That’s why, year after year, the average age of my Mac hardware grows older. My Mac desktop and laptop now have an average age of seven years. Apple simply doesn’t over Mac hardware worth buying. All they offer are toys for people who can’t fix or upgrade. Pitiful. I blame Sir Ives for that.


    One question for Teleread’s technically inclined readers. Yesterday, along with a host of other app upgrades, Apple offered the 3.3 version of their iBooks app for iOS. The hitch? It is a microscopic 173 KB file. It downloaded in an instant. That’s far too small to do anything, and the previous version (3.2) was a 31 MB file installed. The upgrade seems to work fine on my iPad, although the file size as installed, 492 KB is absurdly small, about the same size as a stopwatch app.

    I’m confounded as to what is going on. Why such a small upgrade file size? Is Apple quietly testing incremental app upgrading with iBooks rather than download an entire app each time? That was my first thought. And yet why is iBooks now such a tiny app? I grabbed the old version. iBooks 3.2. ipa out of the trash and saved it. At 31 MB, it’s about what I would expect for such a full-featured app. I just located iBooks 3.3.ipa from the folder where Apple hides it. It’s only 176 KB installed. Like I said, tiny, very tiny.

    Anyone out their who knows how to read the Apple tea leaves on this? This really is strange. Are the features iBooks uses now built into iOS 10 and is the app just a UI on top of them? That is what it looks like and might explain why the change comes out during WWDC. If so, that may mean that in the near future third-party developers can take advantage of those features to create their own, high-quality, industry-standard ebook ePub readers. That would be a welcome development.

    If so, all is not bad news in the Apple ebooks world. Out of the limelight, Apple employees are digital publishing doing some good. And if what I described is happening, it might be announced in some obscure class at the WWDC this week.

    –Mike Perry, Inkling Books

  2. For those who follow the iBooks Twitter account (perhaps it should be called iBookStore), this was one of many minor, largely marketing, tweets. There is no connection to WWDC.
    The WWDC program for 2016 has no sessions on eBooks or anything remotely related. A few years ago there was a session on iBooks Author which, as a content developer tool, was appropriate to a developer conference, The expectation is unfounded.
    The fact is that Apple’s current eBook technology is far, far beyond what contemporary authors are able and willing to make good use of. Taking the freebie, “Maid for Love” as an example, these “extras” turn out to be just more text. Even Amazon could follow suit tomorrow. Perhaps the non-free tomes make better use of the multi-touch book (Apple’s term for *.ibooks files) palette but I would be very surprised if they did.
    One of the metrics associated with corporate decline IMHO is MBA density. Once a company passes a certain threshold (percentage of MBAs), things go downhill because the MBA prime directive is to minimize risk. Like pain, no risk is no gain.

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