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Apple and Books: Gutenberg 3.0

Apple fans adore the end of every announcement when after the enumeration of latest achievements the presenter comes to new devices. The audience did not expect any new hardware to be unveiled on January 19, but several days prior to the event an article in Wall Street Journal claimed that Apple is developing dedicated gadgets for schools, colleges and universities. We do not know whether the sources of a reputable paper made a mistake or fooled the journalist on purpose, but we were not shown any new device. Here you can easily decide that nothing changed for Apple and its fans by ignoring a couple of apps, which were introduced on that day. It is a serious mistake, because Apple made a claim for leadership in a new segment: education and publishing. We can easily label the event as Gutenberg 3.0. The printing press invented at the end of the XVth century gave us accessible books. Penmen were replaced by a soulless machine.

Gutenberg 2.0 was created not by new technologies (colored images and new materials), which left the content and dissemination intact, but by the reduction of publishing costs in 1980s when ordinary people were empowered to publish their own books by paying printing expenses and not resorting to publishing houses. Numerous pulp writers began to distribute their works, but some authors were quite talented. This quiet revolution fuelled by the emergence of computers made it possible for anyone to print books at home, while the related expenses went down dramatically. Until recently this market was easy to understand.

Those who needed a book could easily order the print, but if you are looking for recognition, then publishing houses were still a way to go. Their choice legitimizes the book and helps its circulation in retail.

Publishing Process Today and Apple

I know perfectly well how contemporary publishers work. My book “From Brick to Smartphone” describes the evolution of mobile phones and 30% of its circulation of 3000 was sold during one month, which is impressive for such a specialized segment.

The publisher was responsible for typography, proofreading and editing, which is a standard procedure. In the similar vein was created the cover, images and paging. This invisible work is of crucial importance and many strong points of the book became possible due to an army of professionals, who took part in the process.

Afterwards the publisher functions as your guiding angel trying to support the book as much as it can to sell the edition quickly. Sometimes it works, while on other occasions the book gathers dust on shelves. Good publishers never ignore the fate of a book. They guide the author, arrange meetings with readers and favourably locate the book in stores. At this point the process of publishing is extremely similar to that of games creation. Good teams work with companies, which can present and promote games well and have funds sufficient for effective development, marketing and advertising. Your game can be perfect, but without the right positioning and promotion it has no chances for success. The same applies to books. Despite the difference in content games and books have to be sold in a similar way. You must have understood my hint. Since 2008 Apple has been actively working with mobile apps and games. It became a megacorporation, which unites different companies and individuals in App Store. Moreover, Apple has all the tools to promote software in question (e.g. via Best Apps section). The unique feature of Apple lies in the fact that by developing content for its devices the company boosts interest in the content and associated sales. Apple learned to control not only the tools for content creation, but the media where this content exists too. They have the absolute power to control what, when and how will be transmitted through its devices. The case of Adobe and its Flash technology, which lost out to Apple showed again that the control over tools and media creates new reality for us all. There are no adverse effects as a rule, but the owner completely controls the content. In tools it limits the form of the content (the same happens in devices, when the screen size and resolution play their part). Media control allows the company to decide what is important for users.

The choice of tools and media defines the market for years to come and it has already happened with games, where Apple sets the trend and Android follows suit offering their own versions of the main idea (they can also do the same, but for free courtesy of the advertising). January 19 2012 should be remembered as the day when Apple brought its technology to the market of books and education. I consider it to be a quiet revolution, which will be ignored at first, but will alter our perception of books, the way we choose them and our preferences for particular authors. It will give a spur to the growth of the market as well. It will affect the educational market too, where new segments will appear.

Gutenberg 3.0: Every Author Gets Their E-Book

In May of 2011 Amazon announced that the sales of e-books for Kindle exceeded the same parameter for paper books for the first time. The same happens with Barnes&Noble, where e-versions of books outsell paper books month after month.

There is no financial factor involved, because the price is often the same for both types of books (at least for new books). We have to take into account that Kindle boasts many classical works of literature free of charge. E-books made people read more or at least download more titles for future use.

Until recently traditional publishers controlled the distribution channels and created e-versions to be offered in app stores. They transferred their methods online and controlled the production process to some extent. Not every author could decide how to make pages, which format to use and how to protect the book. Now Apple comes up with the universal tool for all issues in the shape of iBook Author.

It allows you to create the look of the book, glossaries, chapters, add any multimedia files in galleries or separately. It is a simple and powerful tool for multimedia books, which was unprecedented until today. It is a fantastic solution. Watch the video highlighting possibilities of such books. There I look at the Apple textbook.

Typically for Apple the app works only on Mac (OS Lion) computers and the viewing requires iPod/iPad/iPhone. This solution will attract many authors who will become loyal to the Apple brand. The creation of the book is only half of the battle. Then it has to be promoted and sold. I am sure that Apple will use the pattern tested with apps when the author gets 70%, while the company receives 30%. You can set and change the price yourself. Apple will review the book and may block its entrance to the bookstore. Nevertheless, we suddenly appear in the world where everyone can publish a book and become successful (if the book is worth attention the sales will follow).

Traditional publishers will see their market share eroded and will have to improve their current specialized skills (editing, graphics, etc). I call it Gutenber 3.0. In this brave new world any of us can become an author. I cannot promise you the Nobel Prize in literature, but you will be able to publish a book. Will other companies follow Apple? The answer has to be a resounding yes. It will transform the books market even further. Other companies will come up with apps to fight with iBook Author. They will have better features and more efficient tools. I would not be surprised to see here Microsoft and Windows solutions also dealing with books for iOS. At the moment Microsoft lacks an ecosystem to read books and will have to catch up with the competition. It more or less sums up the quiet revolution of January 19, but look at one example of the new trend.

Textbooks from Apple: Traditional Order Under Threat

If you did not watch the video above look at several screenshots to assess the quality of new books. This one was fully created in iBook Author.

The colorful looks hide true intentions of Apple. The estimated price of a textbook is no more than 15$, which looks like a joke for the US market, where battered textbooks fetch at least 20$, while new editions cost 30$ and up. Apple will revolutionize the textbook market similarly to that of digital music. Low price and accessible content will make the approach very popular.

Bear in mind that low prices will not automatically boost the enrolment in universities, but educationally minded individuals will benefit from reduced costs. Low price is necessary for Apple to get a foothold in schools and universities. Such books need an iPad, which cannot be used indefinitely in the educational setting due to eyesight impact.

Apart from beautiful textbooks the company helps you do the homework and communicate with the teacher in the same environment. The textbook becomes a workbook, which is attractive for educational establishments as it allows the automated homework check. Schools and colleges are directly interested in new products.

I think it is a good example how technology improves our quality of life. I want my children to have such textbooks, but I would like to know for sure how modern screens (for example in iPad) affect the eyesight of children. We will probably need some research in this area. Anyway, I believe that at least in the US the research will follow the resulting changes when such books come to the market.

Looking at the price of textbooks set by Apple we can expect many books to sell only for 1$-3$. The same was the case with apps before and traditional publishers will not be able to keep up as they can't create colorful and high quality books for so little. Welcome to the e-world of Gutenberg. The world will never be the same again. A tiny innovation from Apple changes the rules of the game for many companies and people.

P.S. The book I am writing about the destruction of Nokia will be released electronically first with the paper version coming later. I thought it will be created in a traditional way, but iBook Author will enable me to create the whole book together with graphic elements. Look it up in iBook this fall. I hope this article will give you enough food for thought. Imagine for yourself what will be the next steps following the today's revolution.

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Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
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Translated by Maxim Antonenko (maxantonenko@ukr.net)

Published — 22 January 2012

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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