Apple and book publishers were talking way before any 12th hour

Over the past couple of years, I have talked with several individuals in the book-publishing field about Apple talking with book publishers. These weren’t people “speculating” that Apple wanted to use the iTunes channel (or something similar) to offer eBooks. These are people who know. Their timing was off, however. But they assured me it was on its way.

So when I read that “12th hour talks between Apple and book publishers are taking place,” I know it’s not the first time such meetings have taken place over the past two years.

In my opinion, this is the key quote in the The Bookseller article:

“What is clear is that US publishers are desperate to combat the $10 Kindle price tag pushed by Amazon.com, and believe that if enough weight is given to it other retailers will be forced to follow.

Rather than repeat myself, here are links to previous posts that address this topic:

What I’d rather have than an eBook reader: the iPod Touchbook: (11/18/2007) In a comment on this post that disappeared when I switched to Disqus commenting but I reposted here last year, book publisher and ubber-social median Michael Hyatt wrote:

“I would much rather have an Apple Touchbook than the Kindle (which I own). However, you’re forgetting one small detail. The device is only one-third the equation. iTunes is another third. So far so good. A seamless way to get content from the store onto the device. What Apple is missing is the RELATIONSHIPS. They don’t have any relationships with book publishers that enables them to get access to the content…Could Apple develop these relationships? Sure. My point is that they haven’t started and this is where Amazon has a leg up. For most of us, they are one of our largest customers and we trust them.”

For those who follow Michael Hyatt’s blog, the CEO of the nation’s 6th largest book publisher provides bread crumbs along the way from that two year old comment to his recent telegraph of how he believes a device like the iSlate/iPad (or, in his post, the SI Tablet, a conceptual device to show what an iPad could be) will “be the end of book publishing as we know it.”

In other words, despite him never saying it or remotely implying it on his blog, I think Apple has talked with Thomas Nelson long before any 12th hour.

Two posts on the economics of eBooks: The notion that $10 an eBook is “cheap” is ridiculous. But whatever the book publishers want to charge is up to them, not the retailer. Frankly, as much as I like wholesalers and printers and binders and bookstores, the value of an eBook should be based on the cost of only two steps in the channel — the author (and his/her “people”) and the publisher (specifically, how much demand they can create in the marketplace). Much smarter people than I have figured that out. Tim O’Reilly, for instance, who charges more than $10 for eBooks he publishes — but also gives away others for free — sometimes the same book is available for free and for pay. My best post on the topic of eBook pricing actually quotes legitimate sources, and doesn’t depend on my hyptheses: Yet one more mystery about the enigmatic book publishing industry.”

And lastly, my post last week about gizmo channels: It’s not the gizmo that makes a gizmo successful explains, if you read it closely, that book publishers have never understood that it’s the “channel” not the device or the content that will ultimately determine their fate. Sorry, book people. Your key to success is not dictating prices (it’s against the law, I believe). Your key to success is finding great authors and rewarding them well by editing and marketing their “content” the best way(s) possible. Forget trying to dictate prices for digital content based on what it costs to pulp paper and warehouse “product.” That ship has sailed.

  • SplinteredMind

    Publishers worry about $10 ebook profits, but ebooks don't require thousand$ to million$ upfront for printers. They don't incur warehouse or printing costs either. IMO, books won't take a year to come to market anymore. Get book. Give to editor. Polish text. Meet with marketing. Upload to Amazon.com or iTunes. Make money. The publishers don't even have to pay for the server costs. Amazon & Apple will do that for them. It's a brand new world and they're still in the 20th century.

  • I will be very surprised if the book publishers have suddenly gotten religion (or even a mildly intelligent strategy) around the digital transition. More depressingly, these reports make it sound like Apple is continuing to move in the direction of favoring content providers at the expense of ordinary consumers.

    It seems almost quaint now that Apple blasted away a decade of idiotic anti-consumer behavior by the record labels and gave the people what they wanted with the iTunes music store — simple rules, one price, buy it once, own it forever. Since then, Apple has kow-towed to content providers on video and music pricing and acted against its customers by banning competitors' apps from the iPhone. Sure, it's all subject to negotiations but I just don't feel like Apple is on our side anymore.

    For those of us concerned about the future of the ebook market, I am wondering whether Apple will continue to allow competing ereader apps in the iTunes app store. (http://gravitationalpull.net/wp/?p=1213)

  • SplinteredMind

    Publishers worry about $10 ebook profits, but ebooks don't require thousand$ to million$ upfront for printers. They don't incur warehouse or printing costs either. IMO, books won't take a year to come to market anymore. Get book. Give to editor. Polish text. Meet with marketing. Upload to Amazon.com or iTunes. Make money. The publishers don't even have to pay for the server costs. Amazon & Apple will do that for them. It's a brand new world and they're still in the 20th century.

  • Have you discussed this before: Most popular Kindle books are free http://j-walkblog.com/index.php?/weblog/comment… … and that blog post also has a link to an article: “Value perception of eBooks is going to zero”.

  • I will be very surprised if the book publishers have suddenly gotten religion (or even a mildly intelligent strategy) around the digital transition. More depressingly, these reports make it sound like Apple is continuing to move in the direction of favoring content providers at the expense of ordinary consumers.

    It seems almost quaint now that Apple blasted away a decade of idiotic anti-consumer behavior by the record labels and gave the people what they wanted with the iTunes music store — simple rules, one price, buy it once, own it forever. Since then, Apple has kow-towed to content providers on video and music pricing and acted against its customers by banning competitors' apps from the iPhone. Sure, it's all subject to negotiations but I just don't feel like Apple is on our side anymore.

    For those of us concerned about the future of the ebook market, I am wondering whether Apple will continue to allow competing ereader apps in the iTunes app store. (http://gravitationalpull.net/wp/?p=1213)