Apple’s iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, which launched to the public this fall, come with iBooks pre-installed. That decision has paid off: iBooks has averaged one million new customers every week since mid-September.
Keith Moerer, the director of iBooks at Apple, revealed that statistic in a rare public appearance at the Digital Book World conference in New York City on Thursday. It’s startling to anyone who dismisses Apple as an also-ran in the ebook market and might encourage publishers and authors who haven’t focused on the platform to begin doing so. (And that was probably one of the main reasons that Apple agreed to appear at the conference.)
Moerer also spoke about other reasons that iBooks downloads are increasing. Since the launch of the larger-screened iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, “We are seeing more of our book sales starting to come from the phone.”
Though neither Moerer nor interviewer Michael Cader, the founder of Publishers Lunch and co-chair of the DBW conference, mentioned Amazon by name, Moerer drew distinctions between [company]Apple[/company] and [company]Amazon[/company].
“It’s in Apple’s DNA to support creative professionals of all types … many of whom use our hardware, many of whom use our software. That support carries over to the way we run our media business,” he said, adding:
Whether an author chooses to self-publish or work with a small or large publisher, I’m very proud that our business terms are the same. The same 30-70 split applies to a self-published author as well as an author published by the very biggest house. Because we’re not a publisher ourselves, we work very closely with publishers and we view them as partners. We view what we do as an expansion of our support of print professionals on the hardware and software side and the way we run our other media businesses.
Another difference between the iBooks and Amazon is that Apple doesn’t charge publishers to promote their books on its site. “One hundred percent of our merchandising is editorially focused. We accept no co-op payments, no pay for placement,” Moerer said, reciting and then spelling out his email address on stage. “If you’re not already working with iBooks, the best way to make that first contact is to send me an email, and I’ll make sure that it gets to the right person and we’ll get back to you.”
Asked if there are categories where iBooks might be outperforming other retailers, Moerer said the company sees particular strength in movie tie-ins: Apple can “leverage those customers” who come to iTunes to buy movies and music and also read. “We’re able to do a lot to promote movie tie-ins before theatrical release, during the theatrical window, and when the movies come out on iTunes, typically about 90 days after the release.” He also said the company has made “real effort over the last 18 months to focus more on genre fiction…romance, mysteries and thrillers, and sci-fi and fantasy.”
Nonfiction books, especially illustrated books, have historically underperformed in digital, but Moerer said that Apple is seeing progress there — “really starting with memoirs and biographies, particularly those biographies and memoirs that have a pop culture tie-in … it’s been slow but we’re starting to see some real momentum around children’s publishing as well.” He went on:
It’s certainly slower than we would like, but using the iTunes music store as an example, jazz and classical music fans were the slowest to move from physical to digital over the years … we think that we’ll see a similar progression with illustrated and children’s books … it will take some time.