An Apple-Championed Revolution of the Publishing Industry? Don’t Kid Yourself

by Josh Rubenoff Mar 01, 2010

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

Steve Jobs dismissed the idea of the Amazon Kindle upon its release. The quote above is from January 2008. In months to follow, he'd repeatedly deny the idea that Apple was creating a device to read e-books, using various iterations of the argument that the market for it just wasn't there.

Well, the iPad's been announced, it contains an iBookstore that stores iBooks on its quasi-plagiarized interface, and reports have popped up in recent weeks of Jobs meeting with newspaper/magazine publishers like the WSJ and NYTimes in order to lock down content deals. Still, I'd argue that when Jobs argued against the Kindle, he wasn't lying in order to keep the iPad's development confidential. Apple really does believe the e-book market is too inconsequential to base a device around, and they've designed the iPad accordingly.

I think the reports of NYTimes/WSJ meetings are a little bit misleading in that they don't represent a concern for the print industry's fortunes so much as Apple's desire to be the #1 distributor of basically all digital media through iTunes. Apple doesn't care about these individual publications specifically, but it knows the iPad is a compelling device to publish on for these businesses, and when presented with a choice between letting them release their content through a Skiff iPhone application or through iBookstore or iTunes and get a 30% cut, they're going to choose the latter. The iBookstore is merely the next evolutionary step in Apple's digital content strategy. I would assume that comic books and graphic novels, currently offered for the iPhone within third-party apps like Panelfly, would be the next logical medium for the company to pursue.

It's also important to note that the iBookstore is only one component of the iPad, and was emphasized as such within its introductory keynote last month—the marketplace and its corresponding application took up no more than 20 minutes of a 90+ minute presentation. Apple made sure to point out that there were many, many reasons to purchase an iPad—the large touchscreen that makes web browsing and media consumption a very attractive proposition; the ability for third-party developers to create more complex and dynamic interaction models for their applications. If e-books don't prove successful, there are many more features within the device for Apple to fall back on.

Of course, none of this is to say that Apple won't make e-books a priority in the future if they do prove successful. Look at how the App Store evolved into a peripheral iTunes Store feature, that Apple begrudgingly created at the behest of angry developers, into the iPhone's main selling point. I think it's safe to say that right now, Apple views the iBookstore as a "hobby", not unlike the Apple TV: a market with potential, but not currently significant enough to merit attention beyond what is necessary for its product strategy.


  • I love that Apple’s entry into the market with a competing product has resulted in HIGHER ebook prices all around.  Thank you, Apple.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 01, 2010 Posts: 2220
  • I wonder, if the publishing industry is visibly PLEASED with how the iPad helps their sales - would the movie industry relax a notch or two?

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Mar 07, 2010 Posts: 228
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