January 27, 2012

Amazon expected to cut Kindle Fire orders in half as new iPad looms

By Katie Marsal

Published: 09:31 AM EST (06:31 AM PST)
Orders for Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablet will reportedly be cut in half to 3 million units in the first quarter of 2012, with slower post-holiday sales and the anticipated launch of Apple’s third-generation iPad.

Sources from Amazon’s supply chain in the Far East indicated to DigiTimes that Kindle Fire orders with original device manufacturers are expected to be just 3 million units this quarter. That’s half the 6 million units Amazon reportedly shipped during the holiday quarter of 2011.

Orders for the start of 2012 will top off at a million per month as sales are expected to significantly drop following the holiday shopping season. Suppliers reportedly indicated that the reduction is in line with expectations for companies like TPK Holdings and Wintek.

The Kindle Fire made a splash on the touchscreen tablet market last quarter, when Amazon began selling the device for just $ 199, or less than half Apple’s entry-level $ 499 price for the iPad 2. One analysis from earlier this month suggested the Kindle Fire took away no more than 2 million iPad sales from Apple over the holiday season.

Amazon announced in late December that it was selling more than a million devices per week from its Kindle family, including the Fire and its traditional e-ink readers. While the online retailer said the Kindle Fire was its best-selling product, it declined to provide any specifics on sales.

Apple, meanwhile, is believed to have just come off its best-ever quarter for iPad sales, with the just-concluded holiday quarter projected to have surpassed the company’s previous best of 11.2 million iPads sold in last year’s September quarter. Apple will reveal its quarterly earnings, including specific iPad sales figures, in its earnings call next Tuesday.

As Amazon allegedly cuts its Kindle Fire orders and Apple prepares to announce its latest iPad sales, anticipation continues to build for a rumored third-generation iPad. Reports have indicated that production of the next-generation model is already underway, and the device is expected to go on sale in March.

One rumor this week claimed that Apple is planning to hold an event in early February to announce its next iPad before an official launch in March. Such a move would be unusual for Apple, as the company usually begins selling a product very soon after it is announced, but some rumors have suggested that Apple will continue to sell its current iPad 2 at a reduced price to take on cheaper competitors like the Kindle Fire.


Apple’s War On Amazon Starts Thursday

Apple’s War On Amazon Starts Thursday

Apple’s most direct competitor in the future won’t be Microsoft or Google, but Amazon.com.

With the release of the Amazon Kindle Fire, Amazon.com declared war directly on Apple’s core business model, which is to sell integrated solutions for the consumption and creation of digital content.

Starting Thursday, Apple strikes back.

My unified theory of Apple: It’s primarily a content consumption and creation company.

Apple devices do all the standard things that phones, tablets, laptops and desktops do, but Apple’s secret applesauce is that iGadgets are optimized on the low end for “consuming” content, and on the high end for creating it. Apple’s unique business model is to profit from the hardware, profit from the software and profit from the delivery of content to those integrated hardware/software devices.

If you understand this basic fact about Apple’s uber strategy of focusing on content, then it’s easier to predict what the company will do.

In a nutshell, Apple’s goal is to do for all content what it did for digital music — control it.

In order to control digital content, that control must be wrested from established players.

Music was easy, because the recording industry was naive and clueless. By the time they realized Apple was out to control their industry, it was too late.

Other media will be harder. The only way for Apple to take control of TV, movies, books, magazines and newspapers will be to destroy many of the companies that currently dominate those industries — by eliminating them and enabling content creators to sell their works directly to consumers via iTunes. It’s called disintermediation — the removal of intermediaries who stand between the Mac-using content creators and the iOS-using content consumers.

Fortunately, for Apple, the destruction of old-school intermediaries like TV and movie studios and publishing companies is going to happen anyway. The broad trend is in Apple’s favor.

We already have an idea about how Apple intends to control the future of video content. The rumored iTV, if successful enough, could put Apple in a position to dictate delivery, and also business models — a la carte, for example, instead of the prevailing cable model. TV is the one major content consumption device that isn’t made by Apple, and soon Apple will fix that. When they do, the iTV or whatever will ultimately cut out the cable companies and deliver everything over the Internet.

But what about publishing?

It turns out that the very company that has declared war on Apple is the same company that currently controls book publishing.

It’s pretty hard to imagine Apple putting up an Amazon.com-style bookstore and competing head-to-head with Amazon for print book sales. It’s not going to happen.

In fact, Apple did launch a bookstore that competes in a limited way with Amazon’s eBook offerings, and that hasn’t been exactly what you might call successful.

Amazon appears untouchable for book sales. But in fact that company is far more vulnerable than it appears.

Amazon sells two kinds of books (I’m oversimplifying for the sake of clarity). The first kind of book comes from the traditional publishing industry. Harper Collins does its thing, develops a book title and sells a hardcover edition and Kindle edition, then later a paperback and audiobook. Even though there are products consumable on iOS devices, namely eBooks and audiobooks, it’s still produced through traditional intermediators.

The second kind of book comes directly from authors. There’s no publishing company involved. Amazon offers the option of itself serving as the intermediator, offering publishing-like services, including design, editing and all the rest. Or authors can hire their own freelancers to do that work for them. Authors for this kind of book do their own marketing and distribution, and Amazon offers help with those efforts as well, for a price. This is the disintermediated model.

The dominant type of book on Amazon from a revenue perspective is the first kind, the kind produced by the traditional publishing system. The second kind of book is a much smaller business.

That’s today. Tomorrow, the relative importance of these two kinds of books will be reversed. Publishing without a publisher is the future of publishing.

Apple will never compete with Amazon.com in a soup-to-nuts online bookstore scenario, where the core competency is making deals with every book publisher in existence and managing incredible inventories of paper books. That’s not a business Apple wants to be in.

But the future of books — self-published authors selling electronic books to be read on digital devices. Well, that’s an Apple business.

In other words, Apple won’t compete with Amazon for the present of book publishing, but for the future.

And Apple has one massive advantage over Amazon.com in the world of self-publishing: A disproportionate percentage of authors use Macs.

All things being equal, authors would choose to work with Apple rather than Amazon.

And they’re not equal: Apple is already better than Amazon at creating the tools for creating books. Apple is already the hardware platform of choice for both designers and authors. Apple makes word-processing software and communications software. In fact, every aspect of the disintermediated book publishing model falls squarely into Apple’s core competencies.

I think Apple intends to slowly take control of the book publishing industry from Amazon by providing the leading tools and cloud infrastructure for authors to create and then market their books directly to readers.

Starting with the education segment of the publishing market. Which brings us back to Thursday’s event.

I think we can expect to see the beginnings of a system that connects textbook authors to students. Between those two Apple-using connection points lies writing, editing and other types of creative collaboration, design, layout, and more. The textbooks of the future will be cheaper and more frequently updated. They’ll be annotatable by teachers or customizable by school districts and universities.

Although Apple may initially partner with textbook companies, ultimately textbook publishers will be pushed aside because they’re too slow and inefficient.

In other words, I think Apple will begin the long process Thursday of reinventing the textbook industry as a stepping stone to eventually reinventing the entire publishing industry.

In addition to re-inventing the textbook industry, I think Apple will re-invent the textbook. The obvious way to do this is to integrate multimedia. Because textbooks will be conveyed as iOS apps, they’ll have video, and audio, worksheets, interactive quizzes, “flash card” functionality and much more.

Starting with textbooks makes enormous sense for Apple. The company has always emphasized the education market. Schools at all levels have taken to iPads in a massive way. Re-inventing textbooks to be read on iPads will be something welcome by students, teachers, school districts and universities.

As part of Apple’s effort both to serve the education market and also to clobber Amazon.com, I think Apple will announce sometime this year, possibly Thursday, a 7-inch iPad (widely rumored) and sell it at very low cost to undermine the attractiveness of the Amazon Kindle Fire.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if Apple offered new special discounts for bulk purchases of iPads to schools.

I believe that whatever Apple announces will be a step — larger or small — toward controlling the textbook market by enabling the disintermediation of the industry — the removal of publishers, printers and others from the supply chain.

One step is winning the customers — the schools, teachers and students. A second step is winning the suppliers: The writers, editors and others. And a third step is connecting the two with a publishing system that turns the content creator’s words, pictures, videos, audio, designs and other materials into a polished, marketable interactive eBook.

Despite the long goal of disintermediation, I think there’s a very good chance that publishers may be involved in Thursday’s announcement. One possible baby step is to convert existing textbooks into iPad apps and eBooks. That would be the quickest way for Apple to establish itself firmly in the market.

By the time Apple has transformed the high end of the textbook market, they’ll be ready to go after books in general, which will by then also be ready to go it alone without publishing intermediaries and will also be ripe for multimedia.

The familiarity with Apple’s publishing systems in academia by students, teachers and professors will ease their entry into the bigger publishing world. Writers tend to go to school. And this is yet another great reason to start the conquest of publishing with textbooks.

An alternative scenario is that in addition to a program to corner and reinvent the textbook market, Apple may also offer publishing tools for authors to sell iBooks to the general reading public as well.

But no matter what specific programs and products Apple announces Thursday, you can be certain that Amazon.com won’t like it.

Amazon has always been in Apple’s long-term path by selling electronic content in the form of Kindle books. They challenged Apple even more directly when they provided an alternative to iTunes with music, movie and TV downloads. But the aggressive launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet put them directly in Apple’s way as Competitor Number One.

Thursday’s Apple event has been billed as an “education” event. And I have the feeling that Apple is about to take Amazon to school.

Picture courtesy of MindShift

(Can’t find Similar Posts)

Cult of Mac

Amazon Launches Kindle Store Web App For The iPad

Amazon Launches Kindle Store Web App For The iPad

Today Amazon launched an iPad-optimized Kindle Store web app. Visiting amazon.com/iPadKindleStore on the iPad will now take you to Amazon’s new web portal for buying ebooks from Apple’s tablet.

Once you’ve logged into your Amazon account, you’ll be able to browse and purchase ebooks in Mobile Safari on the iPad. Your purchases will then be pushed by Amazon to your Kindle device or Kindle iOS app.

As noted by Macworld, Amazon offered in-app purchases for ebooks from its native iOS app until Apple made the online retailer remove its purchase links last summer. iPad and iPhone users were then forced to buy ebooks from Amazon.com and have them pushed to their devices from the web. There was no optimized purchasing interface for the iPad, until now.

While it’s true that the Kindle iOS app has let users subscribe to magazines in-app, customers will have to visit Amazon’s new web store if they want to browse and purchase ebooks on the iPad. No Kindle Store web app for the iPhone has been announced, unfortunately.

Browsing the Kindle Store on the iPad is a rather enjoyable experience. The HTML5-based animations are pretty fluid, and Amazon has done a nice job of laying out the store. You can browse your recommendations in a nice cover slider and see different sections of the store from the main page, like “New & Noteworthy.” The Kindle Store web app can also be added to your iPad’s Home screen for quick reference.

The new web store for Kindle will also take you to Amazon’s Cloud Reader web app for offline reading in Mobile Safari on the iPad. By tapping the “Cloud Reader” button at the top right of the Kindle Store web app, you will be taken to Amazon’s web portal of its iOS app. You can read your ebooks there while staying in your browser.

Cult of Mac

Amazon launches iPad-optimized Kindle store

You may remember the good old days when you could use Amazon’s Kindle e-reader app for iOS to pop right into the online Kindle store to purchase ebooks. That feature went away in July of 2011 in order to comply with Apple’s policies. Amazon today launched an iPad-optimized Kindle Store website that, while still separate from the Kindle reader app, makes browsing for ebooks a much more touch-friendly process.

The new website is visible at http://amazon.com/iPadKindleStore/ and features a touch-scrollable horizontal bar of recommendations for you. Down below are the Top 100 paid and free ebooks, along with the “New & Noteworthy” section.

At the top of the site are a search field, a button for managing your Kindle books, and a button to launch Kindle Cloud Reader if you prefer that for your reading over the iPad Kindle reader app. While the experience of purchasing ebooks from the regular Amazon site isn’t that bad on the iPad, the iPad-friendly site does seem to make navigation and purchasing something that your fingers will enjoy.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Comcast launches live TV on iPad, Amazon optimizes Kindle store for iPad

By Katie Marsal

Published: 12:54 PM EST (09:54 AM PST)
Comcast on Tuesday began to roll out its new “AnyPlay” functionality for iPad, allowing subscribers to stream live TV to Apple’s tablet. Also, Amazon launched a new Kindle storefront designed to take advantage of the touchscreen interface of the iPad.

Comcast AnyPlay launches in select markets

Comcast’s Xfinity HD Triple Play customers in Denver and Nashville can now access live streaming TV on their iPad over Wi-Fi at no additional charge. The cable provider said it plans to add the service to more markets in the coming months.

AnyPlay is only available for users who access the Internet on their home Wi-Fi connection. Outside of the home or over 3G, the Xfinity TV application allows users to access On Demand content, including 8,000 hours of movies and TV shows.

The new AnyPlay functionality is currently only available on the iPad, though support for the Motorola Xoom tablet is coming “very soon.” Using the service, users will be able to watch a show separate from what someone else might currently be watching on the TV.

“Here’s how it works… the AnyPlay device works the same as any other set top box in the home, but instead of delivering the incoming channel lineup to a television, AnyPlay delivers the lineup to the Wi-Fi router on the home network,” a post at the company’s official blog reads. “The router then distributes the secure video signal to the iPad or Xoom over your home’s wireless network. So as long as your tablet is within range of the home wireless router, you can turn it into another television screen.”

Word of Comcast’s AnyPlay service first surfaced last September in the form of a leaked memo. That document said that the AnyPlay service would be limited to 10 registered tablets per home, and only one device could be used at a time to stream live TV programs.

Kindle Store now optimized for iPad

Amazon on Tuesday stepped up its competition in the e-book market with Apple by overhauling its Kindle Store for the iPad. The new touch-optimized Kindle Store for iPad aims to make it easier to find and purchase books.

The new storefront is available via the iPad’s Safari browser at amazon.com/iPadKindleStore. Users must visit the website to purchase e-books on their iPad, because Apple does not allow iOS applications to sell content without paying a 30 percent cut to Apple.

Books that are purchased through the iPad-specific Kindle Store website are tied to a user’s Amazon account. Those books are then instantly available in the iOS Kindle application, available for free on the App Store. Books can also be read on the iPad Web browser with Kindle Cloud Reader.

Amazon’s move to cater more closely to iPad book readers comes as Apple is expected to announce enhancements to its iBooks platform at a media event in New York City later this month. The rumored media event will reportedly focus on iBooks and will feature industry-related announcements about publishing and educational content.


How Apple iBooks needs to compete with Amazon: Cross-platform support

Amazon has trailblazed; Apple has followed. Apple’s iBooks program currently allows authors to self-publish ebooks. Authors create their own business built around iTunes Connect, just as they do for self-published apps.

So where does Apple have room to improve? What follows is one of several posts about how iBooks can improve to better compete with Amazon. In this post, I discuss Apple’s lack of iBook platforms, and what they can do to improve outreach.

Imagine you’ve just bought a book. If it’s a print book, you can stick it into your backpack, your purse, or even your cargo pocket — take it anywhere, read it anywhere. When you’re done, you can pass it to a friend.

If it’s an ebook from Amazon, chances are likely you can read it on nearly any platform you can think of. You can read it on a web browser, on your Windows PC, on your Mac, on your Kindle, your Android Phone, iOS device, and so forth. There is nothing standing between you and your book. And, when you’re done, you can loan it to a friend.

Now imagine you bought it from iBooks. You’ve got all the beauty and pleasure of the iOS deployment, but little beyond that. Apple hasn’t released an iBooks reader for the web, let alone for its home Mac OS X platform. And there’s no loan ability at all.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, “We love our iPhones and iPads, but we have lots of books we’d like to read on our personal computers as well. That whole iBooks DRM thing means we can’t use any of the (admittedly subpar) readers currently on the market like Adobe Digital Editions. So Santa, won’t you please ship us iBooks so we can read in as much style at home as on the road?”

That iBooks are limited to iOS doesn’t just affect where we read books, it also greatly influences buying decisions. Many iPhone owners have Amazon accounts as well as Apple IDs. To think they’ll buy iBooks exclusively out of brand loyalty is to ignore the reality of families with multiple devices as well as the use of books for business and pleasure.

From a consumer’s point of view, Amazon also offers both catalog and financial incentives. Amazon’s book listing is far more substantial than Apple’s. Leaving aside any issues about exclusive homegrown independent books, Amazon lists more niche titles as a general rule. For example, if you’re looking for TV tie-in novels to BBC franchises, you’ll find them on Amazon but not on iBooks. The newest Doctor Who novels, for example, aren’t available in the iBooks store.

Financially, Amazon automatically matches the lowest price available for a product, regardless of where that price is offered: iBooks, B&N Nook, Smashwords, etc. When you shop at Amazon, customers know they won’t experience sticker regret when they later find a better deal at a major outlet.

A lot of this is tied up in the ongoing war between agency and wholesale pricing. Under agency pricing, publishers set a price and then receive a fixed percentage of sales. The MSRP they specify is the sale price. Under wholesale pricing, items are sold to the reseller at a fixed discount (something like 55% of MSRP), and then the reseller sets whatever price they desire.

iBooks does no real-time price negotiation, and books are listed at full retail price set by the publisher. For publishers to update that price, they must log in and change the settings for each and every market. They can do this through Apple’s abysmally slow web interface or through their slightly more effective offline iTunes Producer tool.

I can’t suggest any remedies on the agency-wholesale battle — it’s out of my area of expertise — but I know as an independent author, I’d deeply love to see the pricing tools through iTunes Connect updated to be responsive and territory-savvy. Setting prices a few dozen times is brain-numbingly dreary. Let me emphasize that tip about using iTunes Producer. It lets you perform a lot of these tasks more effectively, without having to deal with iTunes Connect lags.

Apple should take careful note of Amazon’s device reach and consumer-friendly price points. iBooks needs to carefully address these matters in its future planning.

Posts in this series:

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Google Tablet Targets Amazon Kindle Fire – Sparking Family Fight [Report]

Google Tablet Targets Amazon Kindle Fire – Sparking Family Fight [Report]

Photo by kirainet – http://flic.kr/p/7VsMbN

There’s nothing like a family fight and one may be brewing between Android creator Google and the Kindle Fire, one of the few Android-based tablets able to lay a finger on the iPad’s overwhelming success. Although unconfirmed, a report suggests the Internet giant is planning to unveil its own tablet in early 2012 that could undercut Amazon’s price advantage. It brings tears of joy to the eyes of Apple fans.

The report from Taiwan-based industry publication DigiTimes, cites supply chain sources that Google is preparing a 7-inch tablet powered by the Android 4.0, the latest version of the mobile software tailored just tablets. According to the report, suppliers “believe that Google, instead of Apple, may actually be targeting Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire as its major competitor.”

In a bit of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, Google’s PR machine claims such a plan is news to the Mountain View, Calif. firm. However, just last month, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt implied his company would unveil a “tablet of the highest quality” within six months.

But there remains a number of questions. Foremost, how can Google produce a high-quality tablet and undercut the Kindle Fire’s $ 199 price? Secondly, Google doesn’t have the ecosystem that allows Amazon to produce a $ 199 device and make up for the lost profit by selling cloud services, e-books and other items? Although Google has some e-book and music options, they are nowhere near as advanced as either Amazon or as deep as Apple’s.

All of which brings us to the third question: should DigiTimes even be believed? Until we get some confirmation, the report is more suited to the role of interesting rumor.

(Via Cult of Android.)

Cult of Mac

How Apple iBooks needs to compete with Amazon: Better author tools

Amazon has trailblazed; Apple has followed. Apple’s iBooks program currently allows authors to self-publish ebooks. Authors create their own business built around iTunes Connect, just as they do for self-published apps.

So where does Apple have room to improve? What follows is one of several posts about how iBooks can improve to better compete with Amazon. In this post, I discuss how Apple needs to create a better authoring platform to help support their independent authors.

iBooks tools are frustrating. You can publish on Amazon with little more than an account, a doc file and a smile. For iBooks, you need validated ePub files, ISBN identifiers from the Library of Congress and a willingness to run the gauntlet of contracts, paperwork, and the hell that is iTunes Connect.

iTunes Connect

It’s not that iTunes Connect is so unusuable from a web page perspective, it’s that its servers are often so loaded that each request (such as select a country and set a price level, repeat 30-odd times) may take several minutes to complete for each region. You can lose an entire day of work just moving through paperwork details.

There is a workaround: you can use a hacky, poorly-documented tool called iTunes Producer to update your product metadata and it will save you lots of time. But if iTunes Producer, with its amateur-level support, is all that Apple means to bring to the table, then it must re-address how it works with with the iBooks content-creator base.

Amazon makes it so simple and intuitive to list books that when you have to move over to iTunes, the difference hits you right in the face. Keep in mind that I personally use iTunes to sell both books and apps. It’s not that iTunes is so horrible, especially when you set aside any issues of server responsiveness, it’s just that it could be so much better.

Getting Started

Recently, Steve Sande and I went through the iBooks process for our “Talking to Siri: Learning the Language of Apple’s Intelligent Assistant” ebook. It was quite the learning process, taking several weeks until we could get the book clear for sale.

With Amazon, the book went live within a couple of days after we first posted it. We had to fill out two quick pages of information and hit the Publish button. On iBooks, we had to set up our contracts, taxes, and banking details, produce a properly formatted end-product (Amazon automated that entire process for us and provided a beautiful preview tool), and wait for it to work through review.

Admittedly, you can use a certified aggregator like Smashwords or Lulu to relist your books to most major vending sites including iBooks. They provide the ISBN and take another cut of your profits above Apple’s, typically leaving you with about 50-60% of the list price, versus Apple’s basic 70% of list price.

They handle all the little details that you normally encounter at iTunes using their own custom interface to help you manage your content metadata, pricing, and marketing materials.

Apple-approved aggregators for North America include: Ingram, INscribe Digital, LibreDigital, Lulu, and Smashwords. European aggregators are Bookwire and Immatérial. Of these, only Smashwords will convert MS Word documents to ePub.

Keep in mind that the strength of these services should focus on providing full book deployment to every available market, not just because you want to sidestep iBooks.


If all you want to do is publish to iBooks, you’d be better off setting yourself up to create an iTunes account and buying your own ISBNs rather than go the aggregator route. If you plan to distribute in iBooks, you’ll need those ISBNs to register each book.

Bowker is the exclusive ISBN provider for the Library of Congress. A single ISBN costs $ 125. You can pick up a ten-pack for $ 250, a 100-pack for $ 575 and 1000 for $ 1000 — just a dollar per ISBN. It’s all economy of scale. If you want to buy more, prices for even higher volumes are negotiable. Contact Bowker directly.

Most new authors will choose the ten-pack option, which provides a way to test the waters for more than one book with a minimal commitment. Bowker’s free title registration service allows you to ensure that your book title is unique and won’t be duplicated. You can create free barcodes for your books at Bowkers as well.

Because Amazon doesn’t require ISBNs to list and sell books, independent authors find it much cheaper and more straight forward to market in the Kindle store, leaving all other issues of simplicity aside. If Apple wants to gain some of that market, they may consider stepping away from traditional publishing ideas to introduce a way to streamline product listings that aren’t tied to ISBNs.

Authoring Tools

If you have a copy of MS Word or Open Office, you have all the tools you need to write for the Amazon ebook market. Just create a simple style sheet (Steve and I used just seven styles for our books, including headers, paragraphs, notes, lists, and figures) or use the default, write the book itself (I know, I know, the hard part) and include any images in-line that you want to appear in the book.

Speaking of which, here’s an easy pro-tip: Don’t resize the images. Include them in full scale in the document and let Amazon’s conversion tools handle all resizing for you. Life lesson learned, life lesson shared. Moving on.

For iBooks, we investigated several (for that you can read “OMG, I can’t belive how many we actually tried, it was insane”) ePub preparation and conversion solutions. In the end, we ended up using Pages as the most reliable way to create ePubs that passed validation.

Although Word can export HTML and Calibre can convert to ePub, it failed our validation tests. We reserved Calibre for editing metadata once the ePub was already created.

We looked seriously at Storyist, which is a terrific authoring tool but one that didn’t live as comfortably in the must-convert-between-formats realm with our primary authoring done in Word. The fault lay in our workflow, not in that app in particular. Give it a look see, it’s well worth investigating, especially if you’re looking for a tool that helps you plan your book as well as write it.

Pages is a fine content creation tool but it’s not serious enough or appropriate for what we wanted and needed to do in our ebooks. It feels deeply out of date and in no way lends itself to the content creation, reviewing, and editing tasks we needed for our production. We ended up writing in Word, importing into Pages, and then converting into ePub from there. For a 150+ page ebook, that took much longer than you might think. Add to the import and conversion times, overhead for ePub inspection.

Another pro tip: Make sure you use Pages’ section break tools, not Word’s. Otherwise, Pages will throw out all pictures past the initial ten images. Another lovely life lesson learned the hard way.

In fact, there’s a gaping hole in Apple’s product line when it comes to ebook authoring and production. iWork has not been updated for OS X since ’09. It’s crying out for a smart, current refresh that reflects the current world of AirPlay, iBooks, Apple TV 2, and other state-of-the-art changes. Too much has happened in three years.

What’s more, the ePub specification and Apple’s inherent multimedia focus mean that iBooks should be able to move leaps and bounds beyond where ebooks currently are. Do current specs with their end-user-picks-the-font presentations really provide the best reading and presentation experience possible? Shouldn’t Apple be looking at smart typesetting that’s a little more sophisticated? And where else could they be pushing the envelope?

I believe that Apple should be leading a revolution in embedded live book elements with video, programmable app and web integration, and more (Think “Khan Academy” as books, for example). Why aren’t we seeing both the specs and the tools with Apple trailblazing forward? As it is, Apple is taking a back seat to…Word docs. That’s just sad.

WWDR for Authors and Publishers

What Apple really needs is an internal initiative that matches (and exceeds, honestly) its World Wide Developer Relations for app development, but on the book publishing side of things. Apple needs a WWDC for publishing, evangelists and road shows, and internal Mac-driven tools that allow authors to expand beyond the current iBooks offerings. As Apple’s product line moves more and more towards consumers, its support for independent authors (and developers) needs to evolve as well.

Apple needs to integrate author-to-author resources, like its devforums theoretically should for app programmers (Admittedly those forums have somewhat devolved into Apple personnel ordering people to file “radars”, aka bug reports rather than providing the kind of warm human support many developers might hope for, but they’re are far better than no support at all).

I could easily imagine signing up for a yearly independent authoring program (complete with 2 tech support incidents if the program is paid), access to high-level Apple-supplied creation tools and bypassing the current ISBN-based publishing paradigm.

In the end, if Apple is to make its mark in iBooks, it has to both simplify publishing for independents and set its products apart in terms of expressive possibilty.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Rumor: Google to become Amazon Kindle Fire’s fiercest competitor in early 2012

By Josh Ong

Published: 03:00 AM EST (12:00 AM PST)
Despite the fact that Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet is based off of Google’s Android operating system, sources within the supply chain claim Google plans to become the Fire’s biggest competitor with the release of a low-margin own-brand tablet early next year.

Google will reportedly release a 7-inch tablet running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich priced to compete with Amazon’s $ 199 Kindle Fire, DigiTimes’ sources claimed on Thursday. The device is expected to arrive in March or April of 2012.

“Sources from Google’s upstream supply chain believe that Google, instead of Apple, may actually be targeting Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire as its major competitor,” the report read.

However, Google Taiwan responded by claiming that it had never heard of plans to launch an own-brand tablet PC. But, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt did seem to suggest otherwise late last month when he said that the search giant would release a “tablet of the highest quality” within the next six months. Such a device would presumably fall under Google’s “Nexus” branding used to identify flagship Android devices meant to model new software releases.

DigiTimes has lost some credibility in recent weeks after some of its reports were debunked by other publications. Pundits quickly cast doubt on Thursday’s report, noting that reconciling a sub-$ 199 price with a “highest quality” tablet would be nearly impossible, especially without the content ecosystem that Amazon relies on to make money off the Kindle Fire. The Fire itself has hardly been classified as high-quality, as multiple reviews (1, 2) of Amazon’s budget tablet, which arrived in November, have noted that the device feels much cheaper than Apple’s iPad.

Android’s answers to the iPad struggled for the most part last year, with the Kindle Fire representing the first high-volume challenge to Apple’s tablet dominance. Amazon said last month it had sold “millions” of the device, while declining to provide specifics. One analyst estimated earlier this week that he believes the Fire cannibalized 1-2 million iPad sales at most in the December quarter. Still, the Fire’s performance will likely be enough to propel it to second place in the tablet market after its first quarter of availability.

Apple has actually admitted that it doesn’t view the Kindle Fire as a serious threat to the iPad. Company officials view the tablet as potentially fueling further fragmentation in the market because it’s compatible with Android but the apps work with Amazon products. Such fragmentation would ultimately drive customers to Apple’s stable platform, they said.


How Apple iBooks needs to compete with Amazon: KDP Select

Amazon has trailblazed; Apple has followed. Apple’s iBooks program currently allows authors to self-publish ebooks. Authors create their own business built around iTunes Connect, just as they do for self-published apps.

So where does Apple have room to improve? What follows is the first of several posts about how iBooks can improve to better compete with Amazon. In this post, I discuss Amazon’s exclusive KDP Select program and what Apple can do in response.

KDP Select

When Amazon launched its recent KDP Select program, the independent publish world reacted strongly and negatively. KDP Select is built around exclusive Amazon listings, requiring authors to withdraw their titles from competing vendors like Apple’s iBooks, Smashwords, and Lulu. If you want to participate in Select, you cannot sell your book in any form with any other vendor.

You must enroll books for a minimum of 90 days. During this time, Select allows authors to loan their books for, well, free — and promote their books by giving them away, again, for free.

Sounds bad, right?

As a lure, Amazon has promised a shared pot of $ 500K per month for December 2011 and monthly through 2012, with a total commitment of six million dollars. (The first month is over and Amazon has not yet announced per-borrow reward amounts; most involved are guessing in the range of cents-per-borrow.)

What’s more, it’s a zero sum game: the more authors who play in the arena, the fewer dollars there are for each. Sounds bad, but is it a losing proposition for authors?

Personal experience shows that for niche and underperforming titles, KDP Select is actually a great way to gain market traction.

Target Market

KDP Select with its unlimited free loans and exclusivity requirements is clearly not a game that any well-established book wants to play in. “Talking to Siri: Learning the Language of Apple’s Intelligent Assistant” is an ebook by TUAW editor Steve Sande and myself that has been selling quite well on both Amazon and iBooks. It will soon debut as a print book with Addison Wesley/Que.

We declined to enroll it in KDP Select. We could not see any advantage from withdrawing it from iBooks or offering it as a free loan book.

Instead, we focused on a couple of our highly geeky Kindle Fire-specific titles. These titles cover Email and Third Party Content. In response to Amazon, we withdrew these from iBooks, added them to the KDP Select program and have seen surprisingly good results.

That’s because KDP Select trades off promotion for free copies. I personally used one of my five KDP promotion free days on Christmas for my Kindle Fire Third Party Content ebook. Mind you, this is a small very narrowly-focused ebook that shows readers how to incorporate content outside of the Amazon system on your tablet. In other words, it’s never going to be a general best seller.

That day, my sales numbers jumped from modest into the high triple digits. I made no money of course, as each copy was given away for free, but the book’s momentum carried it forward to very gratifying sales for the week that followed. In exchange for cultivating a cadre of exclusive-to-Amazon titles, their program is helping authors promote for very low fixed costs on Amazon’s part.

Amazon’s Outlay

Amazon has commited to $ 500,000 per month to share among KDP Select authors. This money is apportioned by loan popularity. A hot fiction title climbing the Amazon charts will do a lot better than a niche geek nonfiction title. One loan is one vote. Authors must compete against each other to gain a portion of the half-million pot of dollars.

In addition to this basic fixed-outlay scheme, Amazon has some basic infrastructure costs with regard to loan management and title promotion.

Apple’s Response

To date, Apple has not focused highly on independent authors. This is a shame as more and more self-published works are emerging outside the bounds of traditional publishing.

As I’ll explain in my next post, to publish on iBooks, you’ll need a properly formatted and validated ePub file and a costly registered ISBN (International Standard Book Number). On Amazon, all you need is passion and a Microsoft Word doc file. Add KDP Select to the mix and many potential iBooks titles will never make it to the Apple bookshelf. They’ll be limited exclusively to Amazon.

Amazon’s pre-emptive raid into the independent publisher’s world is cutting off titles, both present and future, from iBooks, and other platforms. If Apple hopes to lure these authors to its store, it’s going to have to react, and react strongly. Something has to draw them away from Amazon and from KDP Select.

Apple needs to provide these authors with a reason to stay away from exclusive Amazon listings, and potentially to list exclusively with Apple.

Right now, it does so by offering better terms than Amazon. With Apple, authors receive a full 70% of list price with no delivery fees, the bane of Amazon sales. On Amazon, delivery fees that are linked to file size can cut a chunk of profit out of any book listed for $ 2.99 or higher. (Items listed at 30% royalty rates, or sold for under $ 2.99 are exempted from delivery fees.)

The problem is that, at least in our experience, Amazon sells better than iBooks, particularly for smaller titles. Items are more discoverable on Amazon and Apple does little to promote independents. If Apple were to provide some way for smaller authors to market more discoverably on the iBooks store, they could grow that indie community.

Apple also needs to provide more and better author peer support. Authors, who regularly congregate on Amazon’s forums, find little equivalent on Apple’s sites.

Apple could also hire iBooks evangelists, in parallel to their World Wide Developer Relations, to teach potential authors about iBook authoring tools, how to use iTunes Connect, and provide book publishing road shows — but more about that in my next post.

Will Apple offer its own exclusive agreements in response to KDP Select, as recent unsourced rumors seem to suggest? TUAW doesn’t find these rumors credible, but if Apple does, it better make sure to provide the marketing push that’s the true draw of the Select program.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog