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E-book apps for Apple lose e-bookstore links

Big changes are underway in the e-book app world. Since Saturday, iOS (Apple’s operating system for mobile devices such as iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad) apps for Kobo, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Amazon’s Kindle have been updated to remove e-bookstore features and links to external online e-book stores such as The Google eBooks app, which has been available in the U.S. App Store since December 2010 (although unavailable in Canada) has been removed from Apple’s App Store and iTunes entirely.

The updates follow Apple’s weekend warning to Kobo regarding compliance with latest App Store rules. The Wall Street Journal (which will soon remove all purchasing options from its own app) reports:

Mike Serbinis, Kobo’s chief executive, said Apple told Kobo Saturday that it could no longer operate its digital bookstore from its Kobo apps and had to stop selling e-books directly through them. Kobo subsequently altered the apps so that they no longer sell digital titles.

Now Kobo customers who want to buy digital books via their Apple devices will have to visit via Apple’s Safari browser to make their purchases, a potentially more laborious process for customers used to buying e-books directly through a Kobo app. Customers will continue to be able to access and read Kobo-purchased books from their library on various Apple devices.

Apple first announced the new App Store rules, which strictly forbid in-app links redirecting customers to online e-bookstores, in February and set a June 30 deadline for compliance. Apple’s enforcement of this policy comes as a surprise since the tech company dropped some of their original conditions last month, and the cutoff date came and went without much change to existing apps. From WSJ:

Apple in February laid out new terms for companies wanting to sell digital content via its devices. Apple said that companies selling digital media, including books, needed to make that content available for sale via an app, rather than through a link within the app to an outside website. As part of the change, which was aimed at giving Apple more control over the business, Apple said it would take 30 per cent of each sale.

In June, Apple appeared to relax those rules in content companies’ favour, giving them more freedom over pricing and selling their content. Apple dropped its requirement that any content sold outside the App Store also had to be available inside the store at the same price or less, with Apple taking its cut.

The updates to these e-reading/e-bookstore apps mean content providers maintain ownership over customer information and avoid cutting Apple into 30 per cent of a sale. Ultimately though, it makes purchasing e-books for Apple devices less user-friendly, which, unless Quillblog is mistaken, is a big part of the appeal of Apple devices and e-readers in the first place.

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Aussie readers asked for input about future of publishing

Last week, the Internet behemoth Google launched its e-book sales site, Google eBooks, in the U.S. The e-book market is now crowded with offerings from Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and Sony, which in turn has spawned a cottage industry for articles about the future of reading and the future of publishing. Amid all this cacophony, it’s small wonder publishers have responded to the rapidly diversifying marketplace with a mixture of fear and confusion.

In Australia, a consortium called the Book Industry Strategy Group is directly petitioning readers about their reading habits, desires, and preferences as a way of gaining clearer insights into the way forward. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Barry Jones, chair of the BISG, states that the group is “seeking ideas from all Australians on how to face the challenges of the digital age, and to turn them into opportunities.” Jones suggests that opportunities lie in the flexibility and ready availability of e-books as against their print counterparts:

Where Amazon and Apple have got it right is the immediacy of purchasing an eBook. Both the Kindle and the iPad come with wireless connectivity to the Amazon and Apple stores, respectively. In the case of the Kindle, if you have an Amazon account, the Kindle comes preconfigured with your details so you can buy a book at 3am if you so desire. New York Times technology writer Nick Bilton calls this Me Economics, which is really just instant gratification in book buying. But it beats late-night television.

And although Jones throws a bone to those of us who still enjoy reading printed books (which he refers to as “pBooks”), it is clear that the digital arena is where he and his group are most invested:

And what about people who like the smell of books or the feel of books, or the cover artwork, or who just want to scribble over the pages? No, these sorts of people will mix up their reading habits and buy both pBooks and eBooks.

Public libraries are starting to offer access to eBooks via downloads or by access, by borrowers, to subscriptions taken out by the library. We want to hear about these initiatives and your experiences with them.

School kids will agree that carrying an eReader with all their textbooks on it beats carrying a heavy school bag with all their textbooks in it. And textbooks form a large part of the book industry in Australia. Can we hear your thoughts?

The public can submit comments and suggestions to the BISG until Jan. 31, 2011. One hopes that they will be slightly more innovative and nuanced than the sort of shopworn analysis Jones allows himself above.


Amazon gives authors more reason to doubt themselves

Agents everywhere shuddered and screened their calls today as allowed authors to view their own sales data from Nielsen’s BookScan. A handy map of the U.S. highlights how many copies in each state have sold. From the L.A. Times:

The data, provided by Nielsen BookScan, include nationwide sales information from Barnes & Noble, Target and other big-box brick-and-mortar retailers, from and from some independent booksellers. Nielsen estimates that BookScan captures 75% of print book sales in the U.S. retail market.

BookScan’s sales tallies do not currently include sales of e-books, for the Kindle or other devices.

Authors who use Amazon’s Author Central will see a geographic sales map of books sold during a four-week window, with a lag of about a week. Early Thursday, the sales figures displayed included Nov. 1 to 28; later Thursday, Amazon expects a new week to load, so the information will span Nov. 8 through Dec. 5.

This is the closest thing to real-time aggregate sales data available to publishers, and it hasn’t been cheap. Nielsen’s BookScan, now a decade old, began to find widespread enrollment with major publishers in 2004, when fees ran $100,000 and more per year.

It would have been far beyond the reach of most individual authors, if it had been available to them.

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