UK publishers ready for iPad international launch

<p>UK publishers are already working on books for Apple&rsquo;s iPad, even though UK launch dates for the device and iBookStore have not been announced. At the same time, questions have been raised over the legality&shy; of the agency model, being pushed by Apple, in the UK.<br /><br />The iPad launched in the US on Saturday (3rd April), with the manufacturer claiming 300,000 devices were sold in the first day, with 250,000 e-books being downloaded at the same time. It is expected to launch internationally at the end of this month, with rumours now suggesting 24th April as the most likely Saturday before the end of the month. No date has been set for an inter&shy;national iBookStore, and as far as <em>The Bookseller</em> understands no deals are yet in place with UK publishers for a launch.<br /><br />Michael Bhaskar, digital publishing manager of Profile Books, said the device would &quot;lead to a fundamentally new kind of content&mdash;it&rsquo;s more than just an enhanced e-book&mdash;it&rsquo;s an experience&quot;. Dan Franklin, digital director of Canongate, said the publisher was already working on its first big project&mdash;an autobiography of rapper Dizzee Rascal. &quot;So far, the emphasis has been on taking the whole book and enhancing it . . . whereas with this you have to come from a slightly oblique angle.&quot;<br /><br />Franklin said that although no decisions regarding pricing had been made, the agency model was &quot;good for us. It looks like we might have more control . . . If that&rsquo;s the condition to get on the iPad, I don&rsquo;t have any immediate problems.&quot;<br /><br />Bhaskar said: &quot;Obviously publishers keep a lot of control, but it might stop retailers doing what they are good at&mdash;selling books. Leaving it all up to publishers might be potentially less desirable.&quot; UK publishers were &quot;watching with interest&quot; what happened in the US, he added.<br /><br />In the US, groups such as Hachette and Penguin have locked horns with Amazon over their move towards an agency model, with the &quot;buy now&quot; buttons on books temporarily disabled. Random House has not changed model, and is currently selling e-books on the iPad &quot;through a variety of current and forthcoming retailer apps&quot; according to a spokesperson.<br /><br />But one well-placed industry commentator, who declined to be named, warned that there could be questions over the legality of the model in the UK. &quot;In the States, it works because it allows some fightback against the dominance of Amazon, but here it is effectively bringing price-fixing in through the back door,&quot; the source said. &quot;If you allow publishers to fix the price, the question is&mdash;is that effectively retail price maintenance?&quot; Implications for bricks and mortar booksellers, and print books, could also raise serious issues. &quot;The problem is no one actually knows what the law is around this.&quot;</p>