For those of us who are geeks, especially those are Apple fanboys, and perhaps yet more for those are developers, Apple today kicked off World Wide Developers Conference 2011 — WWDC. For those who don’t know what this is, it’s essentially a week-long event hosted by Apple for the benefit of people who make software and hardware for their products. So if this is an event for developers, why am I writing about it on a publishing/writing/editing/etc. blog? Well, it’s all in the title: iBooks and iCloud.
At WWDC today, Apple announced a boatload of new things, and one of those was a syncing feature for iBooks using their new service, iCloud. This isn’t active just yet (except for those doing testing), and I may be wrong about this, but I see this new feature as a Good Thing for writers.
In a nutshell, iBooks syncing through iCloud will make it super simple for users to take anything they’ve purchased in the iBooks store and quickly and easily send it to their other iOS devices for consumption. Beyond that, it appears as though it’ll work like Amazon’s WhisperNet which automatically syncs your Kindle (and Kindle apps) with bookmarks, highlights, notes, last page read, etc, only this’ll be for iBooks.
A big problem with iOS right now, and to a somewhat lesser degree other mobile platforms, is syncing. This is going to be a big step in the right direction for Apple once this goes live, and if there’s something that can be said of making things easier for consumers, it’s usually that it benefits everyone.
Take the Kindle for instance. How easy is it to buy a new book on the Kindle itself, or from Amazon’s store, and get it sent to whichever device you want? How have people responded to this? If your answers are, “It’s easy!” and “They’re buying more ebooks now than print books,” then you’re correct. A big part of this is making it easy for the user.
I understand that people may think I’m overstating the importance of this small change, and I don’t mean to make it sound like this is going to completely change the face of the publishing/book world, because it’s not, but it has the potential to do for the iBookstore and Apple what Kindle has done for Amazon.
Of course, it’s not a 1:1 situation because Amazon has a lot more titles available for the Kindle than Apple does (especially where self-publishing is concerned, which is a whole other story), but this is the chance for Apple to get a little equality, at least in usability, with the current king of the hill. If you don’t think is important, keep in mind that there’s 200 million iOS devices out there, many of which are capable of running iBooks, and 25 million of which are iPads. That’s a lot of potential customers.
Let’s face it: Amazon owns the ebook industry right now. That’s not to say that things can’t or won’t change, but for now, Amazon is doing everything right (on both the publishing and consuming side, which is no small feat). Apple doesn’t take losses sitting down, so even though their devices aren’t as single-purposed as the Kindle, they’re still not ones to suffer a loss lightly. This is the company that took over the music industry, mind you, and even got the big publishers to make all sorts of interesting concessions with regards to their music services via iCloud, so Apple is going to make an effort to gain more ground on Amazon.
Whether they’re successful or not remains to be seen, but the good news is that it’s going to be easier than ever for users to buy their books on any iOS device and have it sent to any or all of them instantly. Imagine someone standing in line to get a coffee when they overhear a conversation about a great new book, but they’re nowhere near a bookstore and they’re not near their iPad. And because it’s such a tiny screen to read on and because it’s an inconvenience to have to redownload things when they get home, or worse, sync, they don’t buy that book on their iPhone, and by the time they get home, they’ve long since forgotten about it. Don’t think that convenience matters? There’s a whole host of services available, including fast food and coffee delivery, that would argue against this.
Now imagine instead if that person could open iBooks on their iPhone, buy the book, and have it waiting on their iPad when they get home. They might even start reading it now and pick up exactly where they left off once they get home thanks to the wireless syncing that required exactly zero effort on their part. It’s a minor thing, but it’s parity with the Kindle, and that’s important. These tiny things, these little quality of life improvements are what, in the end, can make a big difference for users.
Anything that makes users’ lives easier where devices are concerned translates to more device usage. I don’t have any statistics to back that up, but empirical evidence sure seems to. If you make it easy and convenient for people to buy and pay for things, they’ll do so (see: iTunes).
It works for Kindle, and now maybe it’ll work for iBooks. (But let’s face it: They still need a bigger selection.) For the other writers out there, that means an even bigger market, which means more chances for people to see and buy your books. That’s what I call exciting!