I do ninety-five percent of my reading of books using Apple’s iBooks app, reading eBooks purchased from the iBookstore. I’m beginning to worry though that Apple is giving up on trying to complete with Amazon in that market. When Apple released iOS 7 in September, I was hugely disappointed that iBooks didn’t get updated at the same time. I then went on to assume that it was one of the apps that would get updated alongside the new iPads at the October event that happened last week. But no, it hasn’t been updated to match the look-and-feel of iOS 7 and, frankly, looks out of place on my iPad now.
Some have suggested that Apple can’t have given up on iBooks since they’ve only just added an iBooks app to the new Mavericks operating system. And this does cause me to maintain some hope. But if Apple is truly bothered about iBooks and eBooks, then surely the iBooks app on iOS would have been a higher priority that it currently appears to be?
Others have proposed that the lack of an update is due to resource constraints. And that is fine apart from the fact that it still reveals how low down the food chain the app is to not be prioritised. That’s what is worrying. Apple doesn’t appear to be that bothered about iBooks.
My worry is that Apple is going to drift away from being a competitor in the eBooks market—their recent battering by the Department of Justice probably hasn’t helped motivate them to stay involved—but, even if purely to ensure there’s more than just Amazon selling eBooks, it’s vital Apple remains a player. And, ideally, an ambitious one too. What are Apple’s ambitions for the iBookstore? It feels like a status quo, bare minimum strategy at the moment. But when reading is so critical to the future of humanity, I have higher hopes for Apple’s involvement.
Ultimately, I’d love to see Apple really step up their game with eBooks. Why don’t they look to take on Amazon by pushing through technological breakthroughs that take eBooks to a whole new level of possibilities? Lending and second-hand reselling are just two issues that are far from being resolved—why can’t Apple make things happen here? (I realise that there are publisher issues here as much as technological ones.) It was great to see Apple step things up with text books and the iBooks Author tool, I’d like to see more from them though.
Forgetting even innovating on the technological front though, I’d just like to sense that eBooks are a real priority for Apple. Making sure the main app isn’t languishing behind with an old, out-of-date design would be a good start.