Why Random House won’t be on the iPad

iPad running iBooks.You might have noticed that one major publisher is missing from the list of iPad adopters: Random House. You might think it’s because it doesn’t believe in the platform, or it has some dispute with Apple. None of the above. As the Financial Times has it, it’s because Random House doesn’t want to get into an ebook price war.

So let’s get this straight. To avoid a price war, the publisher is willing to stay with a company who requires a fixed price of $9.99? A company all the other publishers are glad to get away from? A company that is so desperate to keep publishers that it threatens to remove their goods from its store if those publishers don’t comply?

Yes. Apparently that. Granted, Apple’s model could potentially mean less profit per book for publishers because of the 30 percent cut it takes. It will make up for that, potentially, by giving publishers a little more control over their pricing and theoretically increasing the reach of ebooks. For the full story, head over to the Financial Times.

Amazon unveils Kindle Apps for Tablet Computers (including the iPad)

Amazon Kindle App for Tablet Computers.I almost laughed out loud when I saw the diminutive text that accompanied Amazon’s new Kindle Apps for Tablet Computers. It reads “Including the iPad,” in a tiny, scrunched up font. Funny content wars aside, the new app looks pretty great, and it gives us a look at the full color future of digital books from Amazon.

The new app include fancy features like page turn animations and adjustable backgrounds while holding onto the Amazon Whispersync technology to keep your reading experience up to date across multiple devices. While this may be the future of reading with Amazon, it makes me wonder where the future of the company’s hardware lies. I still can’t imagine a world in which Amazon wanted to get into the hardware business for just a couple years, but maybe it did. It’s still the largest online retailer, and content distribution is really a nice business. Just ask Apple.

If the future of the Kindle brand lies in apps across all platforms, though, Amazon would do well not to piss off so many publishers. All the work Amazon has done to this point will be null if readers can’t get the books they want in the Kindle store.

Amazon threatens to ban two more publishers

Amazon Kindle with the New York Times.Amazon is starting to look desperate in the war for content control against Apple. The online retailer has now reportedly threatened to pull content from two more publishers (the first was Macmillan) if they don’t agree to three year pricing contracts for ebooks. The contracts are designed to guarantee that consumers will get the lowest possible price on ereader content in Amazon’s Kindle store. It’s not anything new. In fact, Apple is trying to lock up the same deal.

The deal is undeniably bad for publishers, though. It gives them no flexibility for change as the market matures, which it certainly will over the next three years. The New York Times article didn’t say which two publishers were being threatened, but you can bet no one wants these kinds of contracts. The fact that Amazon is actually going forward with such aggressive measures says only one thing: this is the last resort. If there were other, more suitable alternatives for both parties you can bet Amazon would have explored them. It would garner a lot less press attention and make the company seem far less money hungry and desperate in the eyes of the consumer.

Source: New York Times

Is the iPad the ultimate snake oil?

Apple's iPad.Yesterday’s early estimates suggested the iPad had moved 50,000 units in the first two hours of pre-sale. Now CNN is claiming Apple sold 120,000 units on the first day of release. Those numbers are certainly impressive, especially since no one can really say what the iPad does.

The real thing people are spending money on with the iPad is a concept. Apple did a great job of pitching the iPad as a reading device, your living room browsing experience at an extremely affordable price. It sounds great, but I have yet to see an application that makes me really burn for the device. Will iBooks be cool? Probably, but I still hate ebooks for a lot of reasons, none of which seem to be addressed by the iPad. They can be, but they certainly aren’t yet.

Lastly, you can’t ignore Apple’s hardware test period. Remember the first iPod Touch? Probably not – not many people bought one. There were serious hardware problems, though. Quiet alert sounds, no hardware volume control, and on and on. Granted, software updates fixed those problems as much as they could, but these are still pretty big issues for anyone owning the first generation of the device. The iPad won’t be as good as it was pitched to be on the first go round. If we’re lucky, it’ll be 90% of the way there by 2.0, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Happy iPad pre-order day

iPad.The Apple Store went down this morning for the iPad pre-order update. It’s back up, giving the world access to the highest profile tablet we’ve yet seen. Apple has imposed a pre-order limit of two per customer, which has me wondering whether the company expects the kind of quantity problems that lead to mad eBay selloffs.

The store update also revealed pricing on iPad accessories. That nifty little keyboard dock will run $69 while a regular dock is just $29. You can also get the official iPad case for $39. The update also revealed a nice new feature on the iPad – screen orientation lock. It’s a great idea for anyone hoping to use the iPad as an ereader. It allows you to hold the device in any position and maintain the screen. The auto-flip has frustrated me on the iPhone on occasion so its nice to see the problem addressed for a device designed for reading.

Prices start at $499.00. Will you be getting one?

Source: Apple Store

Reading Material: The iPad rocks for content creators

iPad with iBooks.There’s been a lot of talk about the iPad and its potential to revolutionize the publishing industry. I’ve never really bought it, though I couldn’t always say why. I didn’t think the new form would really encourage publishers to change all that much. Penguin proved me wrong in its discussion of new iPad content, but even Penguin didn’t completely sway me. This article by a book designer named Craig Mod did.

Craig’s whole point is that the iPad not only offers something new, it offers something very old – the experience of reading an actual book. His position is that the iPad preserves the book by more realistically allowing publishers to port their published form, books, onto a new device. The Kindle could only approximate things with its black and white display. By contrast (wink, wink), the iPad’s full color gives publishers the tools they’ve always had for creating rich content experiences. The arrival of links and what we now consider “content-rich” experiences are just icing on the cake.

His article offers a long and winding history of designing books and the kind of thought that goes into a reading experience. It’s worth reading for anyone interested in the future of the written word and/or a passion for creating consumable content.

Source: @craigmod

iPad launches on April 3rd, 3G coming later in the month

iPad maps.Nearly good on his word, Steve Jobs will be delivering the iPad to US customers on April 3rd. I say almost because the April 3rd release is 66 days past the announcement, when Steve-O promised us 60. You can pre-order next week – next week – starting March 12th. The 3G version won’t be released until later in the month.

Some of the questions people are starting to ask include questions about shortages, lines, and the number of iPad-centric apps we’ll see on launch day. The only question I want an answer for is when does iPad 2.0 launch? There isn’t much I care to see on the iPad at this point. Nine months from now, though, that’s a different story. By then most publishers should be comfortable with platform, certainly more comfortable than the haphazard rush we’re currently seeing to try to get things ready. That’s when you get to the good stuff.

The rest of the world will be able to get Apple’s latest creation toward the end of April.

Amazon tries to stay competitive with Apple, will need a new device

Steve Jobs in a chair with the iPad.The day Apple announced the iPad, Amazon was calling newspapers and publishers before Steve Jobs had even left the stage. As the New York Times’ Bits blog has it, Amazon wanted to hear what Apple had offered. Amazon had been trying for more than a month to sign deals with publishers that would give Amazon customers the best prices anywhere, either by matching or beating the prices given to other dealers.

Amazon tried to sweeten the deal by offering publishers bigger revenues than in the past. Unfortunately, Apple was willing to budge on a much larger issue: price. With Apple, publishers had a bit more flexibility than Amazon would give, which in turn gave publishers bargaining power over Amazon. See, Amazon will do just about anything to stay competitive with Apple.

In fairness to Amazon, it’s not like publishers want to upset that distribution channel. Amazon pretty much pioneered the ebook scene – it certainly made ebooks as popular as they were likely to become before some sort of wonder device came along – which leaves publishers keen to cater to the existing subscribers in Amazon’s marketplace until either the iPad gains enough ground or Amazon releases a new reader.

That last point is very important. If Amazon doesn’t release a new reader within the next year or so, it will pigeonhole itself into becoming solely a content provider, a position I wouldn’t think Bezos wants to be in considering he started the Kindle. Rarely would a company of Amazon’s scale introduce a middling product only to do away with it in a couple years.

Source: Bits

Kindle heads to Blackberry

Blackberry gets Kindle.Amazon is starting to see the writing on the wall, it seems. There isn’t a compelling reason for people to buy a Kindle anymore. Other ereaders offer the same price on books with more features and the latest wave of tablet PCs make the hardware look obsolete. So what does Bezos do? He releases a Kindle app for yet another piece of hardware: the Blackberry.

Amazon recently opened the floodgates with Kindle support for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Windows machines. Today we get Blackberry support and the company says it’s headed for Macs and iPads next. If that doesn’t sound like admitted defeat, I don’t know what does. It’s funny too, considering the publisher problems Amazon has had since the iPad announcement.

“Since the launch of our popular Kindle for iPhone app last year, customers have been asking us to bring a similar experience to the BlackBerry, and we are thrilled to make it available today,” said Amazon’s Kindle VP, Ian Freed. There is at least one difference between the two; the Blackberry version doesn’t support creating annotations from within the app.

Official Site

Apple may have more ebook control than we think

iBook Store on the iPad.An article in the New York Times today suggests Apple may have a little more control over low ebook prices than initially thought. Publishers were turning to Apple and its iPad to save them from the clutches of Amazon and the $9.99 Kindle price point. While Apple does offer more flexible pricing options, it has also made provisions for lowering the prices of the most popular books, back to that $9.99 figure the publishers so hate.

The Times cites “at least three people with knowledge of the discussions,” as the source for the news. It’s not just bestsellers, either. Apple expects publishers to reflect discounted book prices, books sold below the typical $26 hard cover price, in their ebook pricing as well, regardless of bestseller status.

This has to make you wonder what really had the publishers upset with Amazon. Obviously they’re aware of the things Apple laid out in its contract, so what’s the issue? Do they just want some extra income from less popular titles? Are there other Amazon policies that turn publishers away or is it really just a lack of flexibility?