Tuesday, January 31, 2012

iBook Author – Apple Changes the Game Again!

The latest game changer from Apple is a bit sneaky. Apple recently launched iBooks Author, an eBook authoring tool. There were ads in the App Store of course, but overall, not much fanfare. Nevertheless, iBook Author is an important move. Amazon needs to watch out, or Apple will grab a sizable chunk of the eBook market.

Why is iBooks author important? iBooks Author puts Apple in direct contact with authors, bypassing a traditional obstacle to publishing, publishing companies.

A traditional publishing flow looks like this:
Apple cuts out the people in the middle, like this:
Publishing becomes easier, faster and cheaper than before. By itself, this would not be a decisive advantage. Amazon has 90% of the eBook market, and they aim to keep it.

However, Apple has another little innovation up its sleeve: the iBooks Author workflow. It looks like this:
An author can work directly in iBooks Author, write an eBook, integrating text, video, audio, presentations, even 3D objects, and publish a finished book by clicking a button. This is quite different from the publishing process most book publishers use. It is both faster and cheaper.

Perhaps most important: the quality of the eBook itself is a lot better than most of the competition. At Amazon, eBooks are usually converted from print editions. At the iBook Store, an increasing number of eBooks will be designed to be eBooks from the start. This will make a big difference.

iBooks Author is free, so the economic barrier to publishing high quality eBooks just disappeared. (The economic barrier to publishing really awful eBooks also disappeared. Too early to tell how that will work out.)

Right now, compared to Amazon the iBook Store is a bit thin on books, but that only makes it easier for an iBook author to get noticed, and thus makes it easier to sell. Mainstream authors may not have much of an advantage, but niche authors will. Dominating a niche is the key to building mainstream sales.

For about a year or two, authors writing for the iBook market have an excellent opportunity to break into literary niches and grow their readership.

Whether the iBook Store will grab a sizable portion of the eBook market or not is by no means certain, but Apple is certainly making a credible attempt. Instead of slugging it out toe-to-toe with Amazon, they strike at the weak spots in the production chain.

It is by no means certain Apple's strategy will succeed in the end, but as a writer, I am tempted to test the waters with an ibook or two.