Apple has just disrupted another industry

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 01/20/2012 - 09:53

Apple's announcement yesterday of an improved iBooks application for iPads and iPhones may seem like a kind of ho-hum sort of thing, but it is potentially as big a deal as the introduction of the iPod was a few years ago. Remember that there were all sorts of digital music players on the market prior to the introduction of the iPod; they were uniformly awful to use. The iPod set a very high bar for usability that resonated with customers.

The iBooks announcement was less about the bookshelf app itself than about the accompanying application called iBooks Author. Apple is giving this application away for free, and it sets a new standard for the ease of creation of ebooks. iBooks Author makes it much easier for textbook authors particularly to embed multimedia content in an ebook.

Apple has cleverly paved the way for the sale of millions of iPads that will replace conventional textbooks in both K12 schools and in higher education.

But while that is interesting and brilliant, it's not the real story.

The real story is that iBooks Author allows writers and teachers to create ebooks and sell them directly through the iBooks store without the services of a publisher. Uh oh. Text book publishing is extremely lucrative, with very high prices for the books, and very low royalties paid to the actual authors of the books. Now, text book authors can, albeit with a bit more work, cut out the publishers completely and reap much larger income by selling directly to students via Apple's iBooks service.

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