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.

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

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?