Awhile ago, a certain CEO of a former fruity computer-oriented company turned fruity consumer-electronic-oriented company proclaimed that Americans just do not read anymore. When interviewed by NYT in January after he introduced the Macbook Air at Macworld, Steve Jobs was quick to dismiss the concept of Kindle.
In fact, so quick that he pointed out that forty percent of Americans read only one book or less a year. I don't know but knowing one hundred and twenty million Americans read no more than one book a year isn't something I keep readily in the back of my mind unless I know I was going to be asked about that.
Unless Jobs and Apple had thought about it. My money is that they've thought about it a lot. Only a year before Apple came out with the video iPod, Jobs had said no one was going to be watching video on a little screen. Personally, I did not think people bought it the first time and no one is buying Jobs' thoughts on ebooks either.
Apple is planning something for the reading public. What I want to know is what the other sixty percent of Americans are doing? I'm willing to bet that some of that sixty percent don't read at all and that some of the same sixty percent (one hundred and eighty million) read quite a bit.
I REPEAT: Apple is planning something for the reading public. At part of the launch of the App Store for the iPhone 2.0, a few of the apps were actually ebooks that were being sold for $0.99 each. In fact, that may be what Apple has planned.
Selling individual books as an app through the App Store is certainly a good idea. Publishers will have the ability to create their own app and sell it as an ebook. Apple would get their thirty percent cut of the ebook and no negotiation with publisher/author may be necessary. Treat everything as an app. Let the market settle on the price.
As time goes on, we'll see an entire section of the App Store dedicated to ebooks.
I think it can work. I don't know how many people actually enjoy picking up a book or a mobile device to read a book but I'm guessing quite a bit of iPhone owners do read. How do I know that? Fictionwise servers have been slowed to a crawl as iPhone owners download previous owned ebooks (which I will be doing) and likely bought new ones as well (which I will also be doing).
So, Mr. Jobs. There are quite a few of us who still do read. Make it as easy to buy ebooks as it is to buy music from iTunes and you've got another market to dominate.
I am predicting that Apple have spoken with or are in discussion with publishers on bring their material over to the App Store. Look for a way in future versions of the iPhone SDK for publishers/authors to add ebooks with just a click or two.
Note: I have been downloading and buying ebooks on my Zire and Windows Mobile devices for years. It's time for the publishing market to focus on the smartphones and millions of mobile users who will read if the books and other works are easily accessible.
Another Note: More and more Americans are taking public transportation as energy prices increase. That means more time on buses and trains. It also mean more time waiting for the buses or trains. I'm sure a few of them will give reading a try.
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