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Apple: 1 million new iBooks customers each week since iOS 8 launch

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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.

6 Responses to “Apple: 1 million new iBooks customers each week since iOS 8 launch”

  1. Michael W. Perry

    As an author, I can affirm that Apple treats me far better than Amazon. It’s like night and day.

    1. Apple pays better royalties than Amazon at every retail price level and often twice as much Apple never charges download fees. Amazon charges fees that are three times those for cellular data. If you like an author, always buy from Apple to make sure he gets paid the most. It won’t cost you any more.

    2. Apple worked with Adobe to give InDesign excellent ePub export capabilities, both reflowable and fixed format ePub. Amazon refuses to help Adobe develop their proprietary Mobi and KF8 export capabilities. When I queried Amazon about what I should do, they told me to go to third-party companies who would charge hundreds to thousands of dollars.

    3. Amazon wants to make major publishers pay from greater visibility and wants to force independent authors to give up rights (i.e. selling through other retailers) to get more visibility. Visibility on a website is a zero-sum game, so that means that other publishers and other authors are being hidden from readers. Apple isn’t playing those games. Create a good book and get it selling well and you’ll get good visibility without paying or giving up rights.

    My only major gripe is one that Apple’s probably working on. InDesign-CC now makes it easy to create fixed layout books (for iPads) and reflowable ones (for iPhones). The iBookstore should make it possible to buy both in the same purchase. Readers should not have to pay twice for the same content.

    –Michael W. Perry, author of Lily’s Ride: Rescuing her Father from the Ku Klux Klan (a YA novel)

  2. WaltFrench

    As a jazz & classical listener, I can say: we may have been “slowest to move…to digital” because the digital format needs to be much better for the subtlety and detail that are characteristic in those genres. All my stuff goes onto my iPod but only AFTER I’ve made a high-bitrate rip of the CD.

    I’m not arguing for 192kHz/24-bit recordings—wasted bits. But it’s EASY to hear musical fails—fr’instance, brushes on cymbals that sound like weird electronic noises from outer space—on 128kb/s recordings that might be fine for most other music, or as you’d hear it in a bar or even a regular living room.

    • Apple does not sell 128-bit recordings anymore, and hasn’t for quite a few years now. The files available from iTunes are much better-sounding 256-bit AAC files, which have long eliminated the cymbal sound issues you mention. The AAC files are mastered from the highest source available, and in some cases specifically re-mastered for optimum iTunes playback. Not audiophile-grade of course — nothing ever is to their satisfaction, I find — but for most forms of music (including jazz), pretty darn good. Give some new tunes a try, you’ll see.