Rumors have been flying about the Apple event announced for later this month. It seems pretty obvious that it’s about time for a new iPad to make the rounds, of course, but Good eReader thinks that Apple is going to announce a new self-publishing platform. “Sources close to the matter have told us that they intend on launching a new digital self-publishing platform to get peoples content into the iBookstore,” writes Michelle Kozlowski.

She notes that it’s currently possible for independent authors to get on the iBookstore through Smashwords, but the Apple program will be designed to give authors incentives to publish exclusively with Apple.

However, Smashwords’s Mark Coker is highly dubious about this rumor. He told eBookNewser that Apple already has a self-publishing program, and a system of carefully-vetted aggregators such as Smashwords who serve it.

According to Coker, there isn’t another retailer with such a rigorous qualification process for authorized aggregators. He said, “Unlike others, Apple actively encourages authors and publishers to deliver books through their aggregators. Apple realizes that they’re going to earn a 30% commission whether they source the book from an aggregator or from their own platform, and books sourced from aggregators are more profitable for Apple because they can be sourced at lower cost (no need to invest millions of long term dollars to maintain and staff their own platform) and greater scalability than from one’s own platform.”

What Coker says makes a lot of sense. Apple is the company that invented the 30% agency pricing cut, after all, and why would they want to spend big on setting up an infrastructure under which they’d earn exactly the same 30% they would if they let someone else do all the work?

Also, it seems unlikely that any right-thinking authors would want to publish exclusively with Apple, when they could publish with Amazon and Barnes & Noble who between them make up something like 90% of the e-book market. Why would anyone limit himself to Apple, by comparison a totally third-rate player in the field?

Whatever happens, I’m sure Apple will have a lot of surprises to unveil at the January event, its first post-Jobs show. The company always does. And perhaps some of them will have to do with e-publishing. We’ll just have to wait and see what they actually are.


  1. You’ve asked the right question, “Why would an author limit themselves to Apple?” However, there is a reason to do just that. Already, the Open University offers eTextbooks labeled “… for iBooks” because they use Javascript that only iBooks understands. Add “Fixed Layout” and “Read Aloud”to that and you have a pattern that may predict more of the same. I will be looking for aggressive support for EPUB 3 and its design for rapid evolution. Apple doesn’t need to offer a “meat grinder” as Smashwords does, it has iWork Pages and possibly a MacOS X version of the iBooks app. Extending Pages EPUB export functionality would be easy for Apple to do. As well, extending the Webkit-based iBooks app to handle ever more sophisticated interactive content would be equally trivial.

  2. Having worked with Apple directly to publish ebooks to the ibookstore this rumor seems unlikely to happen to me. Frankly the way they have the ibookstore setup for uploads is a huge pain to deal with, their pricing model is very bizarre in my opinion.

    Though I have to say anything that makes it easier to get ebooks into peoples hands is a good thing! Maybe they will revamp their uploading program, I know that would make me very happy!

  3. I doubt it has anything to do with eBooks.

    Apple usually announces new desktops in January, and there are rumors floating about Thunderbolt technology obsoleting the entire Mac Pro line all over the technology circles, but no one knows what the next generation of power computers will be.

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