iBooks: 100 million downloads, Random House join the party
Yesterday Steve Jobs gave a bit of his attention to the iBookStore. It's the first time I've heard it highlighted by Apple in many months. In fact, I'd almost written it off as a serious competitor to the Kindle ecosystem. But 100 million is an impressive figure, even though I expect a very large slug of this volume is represented by free out-of-copyrght stuff that earns nothing for Apple.
The real ebook enthusiasts have, in the main, turned to the Kindle system simple because it is so easy and convenient, and because Kindle books can be read on almost any device known to man. One morning I expect to wake up and find a Kindle app on my toaster. But I suspect that many of the 15 million iPad and 100 million iPhone buyers have been dabbling in books, and where more natural for them to dabble than in the iBookStore. It's almost a captive audience for Apple.
I certainly welcome this renewed attention being paid to iBooks. Maybe they are going to do something about it at last. There are glimmers: The addition of the Random House library to the Apple store does a lot to address one of the main criticisms of the system in comparison with Amazon--lack of content.
If the iBookStore is really to succeed, though, Apple must broaden its appeal and take on Kindle by producing applications for a much wider range of devices. It's unforgivable, for instance, that there is still no iBooks app for the Mac, let alone for Android, BlackBerry and the rest. If a book enthusiast is going to have full confidence, he needs to be sure that his purchases can be read on any device in the future, not just on iPads, iPhones and iPod touches.