Apple got busted! They were engaged in collusion and price-fixing with publishers in order to gouge consumers on iBooks. I always wondered why iBooks were so darn expensive. If you buy an album on iTunes it costs about $10, and the equivalent CD costs anywhere from $12 – $15. While not a huge discount, it saves me from doing what I would do anyway — rip the CD into iTunes. I do this so I can assemble playlists and not have to play disc jockey. While the cost difference is not huge, the savings combined with convenience make iTunes a no brainer. iBooks, however, immediately lost me as a customer on price alone. Now we know why iBooks are so expensive. Apple colluded with publishers to fix prices. An iBook costs as much as a hard copy. Why?!? It costs less to manufacture and distribute. It is not handled by any human being who needs a wage – no shipping, no warehouses, no salespeople required… also no savings passed on to the consumer.
The funny thing is, this made a splash in the press, which all but disappeared. In fact, go ahead and search for news on Google and Bing about the iBooks scandal. You won’t find much anymore. The day it splashed, it made the 5 minute NPR news summary, as well as being top news everywhere else. But it has almost vanished — buried by fresh news about how you should learn iBooks Author! The only decent information I could find in researching for this post was a relatively short article from euronews.com. It has virtually vanished from top story to nothing in a few weeks. (Now you see why I post under a pseudonym! How did they bury this story?)
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a suit contending that Apple colluded with publishers to fix prices on e-books. The claim of wrongdoing goes back to 2010, when the first iPad was released. Apple’s alleged intention was to break up Amazon’s dominance in e-book sales. Three publishing companies have settled, which seems to indicate malfeasance. However, Apple denies any wrongdoing. Their team of slick lawyers will have this tied up in the courts for a long time, at the tax payers’ expense. We’re all paying a little extra for iBooks, even if you don’t own an iDevice.
The high price for iBooks only seems to have helped Amazon. I downloaded the Kindle app for my iPad and iPhone, and bought several e-books from Amazon. All of these were software development books. I bought a lot of books on Spring and Hibernate, only to realize that Ruby on Rails is the king of web development technologies. I even bought a book that claimed to cover the latest version of Struts (a java web development technology), but it only covered 1.0. The cool thing about Kindle is you can electronically return the book, no questions asked, within a certain period of time. Amazon is a pretty cool company. They help customers save money, and realize that people shop around. If they can deliver low prices with economies of scales, I am all for it. I even bought my Mac Pro from Amazon, and saved $500 doing so. Unfortunately, this did not score points with the Geniuses when I brought it into the Apple Store, but that’s fodder for another post. (I do, very much, loathe the Apple Store.)
The Kindle app seems to be just as good as the iBooks app. It synchronizes bookmarks, notes, and your last location across all of your devices. It allows the user to highlight text and make annotations, which are searchable and browsable. It even has the cool page turning animation. The only difference I can see is that iBooks allows embedded video. Gee, isn’t that sort of like a web page? It seems like they just reinvented the wheel, and put it behind bars. It is a way to lock down content. Content on the web is not locked down. The wardens at the Apple penitentiary are always locking down something. It seems short-sighted. I realized that I hate my iPad 2 because it is so limited. iOS is all about locking down and locking in, and letting Apple decide what you experience. There are lots of apps — more than any other mobile platform. However, it is content conduits, such a music, video and e-books, where you see the monopolistic tendencies. I love iOS on my iPhone, but hate it on my iPad. Watered down and locked in is only appealing on a small device, but I would even prefer that to be more open (as long as open doesn’t mean buggy and non-secure).
One advantage that the Kindle books have over iBooks is that Kindle works on computers too. I can download the Kindle application for my Mac, and reference my software development books while writing code. This is much more convenient than going back and forth between my iPad and Mac when I need to use an e-book for reference. Apple intends to make iBooks for the Mac, but has no plans for Windows. Who was the strategic mastermind at Apple who thought that up? If anything, it underscores their intentions to dominate consumer computing and lock people in. Don’t let this happen. Kindle is better. The books are cheaper and it works on virtually every platform. You can even read Kindle books on Linux, thanks to their cloud-based reader. They have every base covered. Seems like the way to go, if you want to sell books. It is not ideal if you want to lock people in to your ecosystem.
In the wake of the iBooks scandal, I have decided to curtail my content purchases from Apple. I have not bought anything from iTunes, the App Store, or iBooks since I got wind of this scandal. I don’t expect to boycott Apple entirely. Being stuck with their ecosystem, it’s like refusing to buy gas for my car. However, you still have other options. You can buy music from Amazon. In fact, they arguably have a better selection, if you include CDs and downloads. They even have a handy app to download music and expose it in Finder, to make it easier to import into iTunes. The Apple ecosystem is not completely closed (yet). I would think even the biggest iFanboy would realize that buying everything from Apple is not ideal. Who wants to wait two hours to watch a one hour show downloaded from iTunes? Have they not heard of streaming?
If you agree with me that we should hit Apple in their bottom line, please comment below. Pledge to try to buy content from other sources than Apple when you can. Tell your friends and have them comment below and help tell Apple that consumers want a choice. Apple sold me these products, with promises of opening new worlds of wonder, but I feel like a prisoner with only a few beams of light filtering through the bars of my cell. Let Apple know that we won’t let them lock us in and gouge us. iTunes is also a huge ripoff, and artists get a much smaller share of the sales than is imaginable, but I will save that for a future post. Don’t let the crooks put you in their prison. For now, you have some choices for purchasing non-Apple content in the Apple ecosystem. The writing is on the wall. Their intentions are clear — dominate the market and gouge the consumer. They got caught, and have clearly influenced journalists to bury this story with fresh new articles on how you should learn iBooks Author. This story should still be showing up at the top of news searches. I want updates. I will continue to report on this as details emerge. This whole thing STINKS!