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Trade responds to Apple launch
01.01.70 | Benedicte Page
Industry figures have given a mixed response to the launch of Apple’s self-publishing and textbook apps, as it emerged that authors will only be able to sell their iBooks through Apple’s iBookstore.
At a New York press conference yesterday (19th January), Apple unveiled iBooks Author, which simplifies the way authors can create their own e-books, at the same time as announcing an iBooks 2 app, with a new ‘textbook’ category to facilitate interactive textbooks.
But on its website, Apple tell authors: “Books created with iBooks Author may not be sold as part of a subscription-based product or service. iBooks Author books must be distributed free of charge or made available for sale via the iBookstore.”
Apple revealed that it has partnered with publishers Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and will sell high school textbooks for $14,99 or less. Agent Peter Cox has questioned whether the $14.99 or less textbook price could create “a new race to the bottom” in the school textbook market. He said: “I think it is Apple's landgrab. They are trying to be the hardware right at the heart of the education market… This will have wider implications for the burgeoning self-publishing market - not just in textbooks."
Speaking on Radio Litopia in the wake of the announcement, Alison Jones, director of digital development at Palgrave Macmillan, said: “Call me cynical if you will, but surely the announcement was about taking up the iPad by the educational sector more than anything else. They [Apple] have set the price that way because this is all about the hardware rather than the software.” Martyn Daniels, publishing industry consultant and blogger for the Booksellers’ Association, questioned how much money authors and publishers would get after Apple had taken a cut and VAT had been deducted. “If you read the competition agreements, they are very restrictive and they would not necessarily agree with everyone,” he said.
But DK deputy c.e.o. John Duhigg said the new Apple technology represented "a giant leap for how illustrated books will work in the digital world", with the new iBooks offering a "thoroughly immersive" experience which will "encourage all those with a natural curiosity to get excited about the world about them in a bold new way." It was "our book content on steroids," he added.
Dorling Kindersley is publishing four titles through the new iBooks technology in both the UK and US: My First ABC (£1.49), Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life (£7.49), DK Natural History: Mammals, and DK Natural History: Carnivores/Insects (each £2.49). US prices range from $5 to $15.
DK titles currently on offer are backlist titles, and Duhigg said: "One thing to make clear is that what we've tried to do is to create the best products we can for this platform, so these are not an exact copy of any [print] book. We've been free to set our own prices and we've had to look at our experience in the app space and in the physical book space and come up with products and price points we think should be married to each other."
Steve Smith, president and c.e.o. of John Wiley, said he welcomed the new Apple apps as “a flexible and easy-to-use digital platform to deliver our content and learning assets to students and instructors, and thereby take out some of the inefficiencies of the print model and offer greater value to our customers.”