According to reports circulating Monday, Apple could be hosting a special media event in New York City in January. The event won’t be about Apple’s next iPad if reports are correct, however. Instead, Apple will be talking directly to the publishing industry, and the time is ripe for just such a discussion.
After an initial report from AllThingsD introduced the possibility of the event, while also stressing that nothing fun like the iPad 3 or an Apple iTV would be discussed, TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis says the site confirmed with its own source that the subject at the NYC event will be publishing and e-books. Considering reports indicate Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue will be prominently involved, it’s a focus area that makes a lot of sense.
Cue is in charge of the iBookstore, as well as the iTunes and App Stores, iAd and iCloud. He’s the one who took the stage the last time Apple had a publishing-specific event, when it unveiled News Corp.’s The Daily. Apple used the opportunity to highlight the introduction of in-app subscriptions, which allowed publishers to provide digital subscriptions on a recurring basis for their in-app periodical content, in exchange for a 30-percent cut of revenue for Apple.
Despite The Daily‘s lukewarm reception, in-app subscriptions have definitely been a hit for Apple and publishers alike. Condé Nast reported its subscriptions skyrocketed following the feature’s introduction, and more recently, Popular Science revealed a healthy growth spurt once it switched to using in-app subs.
But that early success is about to face its first big challenge, now that Amazon is essentially launching a full-court press with its own digital periodical offerings alongside the introduction of the Kindle Fire. Recently, Amazon updated its iOS app to be able to access the same digital magazine subscriptions it offers for its new Android-based tablet, giving them the cross-platform appeal that keeps the Kindle bookstore out ahead of Apple’s own iBookstore.
Apple could be taking steps to arm itself against this effort from Amazon with improvements to its publishing platform, and one such improvement could be opening up a new digital self-publishing platform, according to sources talking to Good e-Reader. That would allow Apple to compete with similar offerings from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, providing Apple the ability to negotiate directly with independent authors for exclusive publishing rights. If Apple can convince some big names to go iOS-only, it might provide a kick in the pants for iBooks’ lackluster sales performance thus far.
Apple’s publishing efforts, and iBooks in particular, are in need of some invigoration in the face of the competition. A targeted media event in January would be a good way for Apple to call attention to any new features it plans on introducing in order to raise the profile of its attempts to compete with other platforms. The introduction of The Daily last year may not have been that exciting from a consumer standpoint, but it ensured everyone knew all about in-app subscriptions in advance of the feature’s launch. Expect a similar industry-targeted feature evangelizing event, should Apple hold one late this month.