My very first post back in August of last year examined Amazon’s attempt to disrupt the publishing industry through the release of their Kindle reading device. The irony, of course, was that while Amazon was looking to Apple and the iPod and iTunes as inspiration their plans were most likely to be thwarted (or, at least, complicated) in the long term by Apple:
Apple could very well launch an e-reader of its own, one that vastly improves on Amazon’s market-leading Kindle. Specifically, Apple could develop a reader that utilizes their leading touchscreen technology so that readers can intuitively flip through pages of magazines or books (a feature the Kindle currently lacks), develop their reader so that media is presented in color (the Kindle is gray scale), and provide a larger viewing screen. And while Steve Jobs has previously denied a desire to get into the e-reader market, Apple is apparently full-go towards developing and launching their own tablet computer. Such a device could be a “Kindle-killer”.
After months of speculation, it appears we will get our first look at Apple’s tablet on January 27th which will likely ship in March of this year. Additionally, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that HarperCollins is in negotiations with Apple to make their titles available in an enhanced electronic format for the release of Apple’s tablet:
Brian Murray, the chief executive of HarperCollins, said in December that e-books enhanced with video, author interviews and social-networking applications could command higher retail prices for publishers than current e-books. Many of the country’s largest publishing houses are worried about the sale of new bestsellers for only $9.99 in the e-book format. New releases of enhanced e-books could sell for $14.99 to $19.99, a person familiar with the situation said.
Apple’s tablet wouldn’t simply be directed towards Amazon and the e-book, e-reader market. But like many of Apple’s products, it will have the potential to disrupt multiple industries at once. With the potential to provide enhanced features, publishers may be able to create some leverage over the 800 lb. gorilla at the moment, who has decided that most e-books need to sell for less than $10.
My initial thought is that while betting against Apple in the device space has not exactly been a good move, I am not convinced that enhanced e-books will be able to attract a high price-point from customers. The practice certainly worked with DVDs, but besides wanting an enhanced graphic display and color interface for many e-books and e-magazines I have not had a gnawing urge for author ‘extras’.