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Apple Opens Its Arms to Self-Publishing E-Book Authors

By Erika Morphy MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Feb 6, 2013 3:15 PM PT

Apple has staked out some precious ground in the e-book battle with Tuesday's debut of Breakout Books, a new section in the iBookstore.

Apple Opens Its Arms to Self-Publishing E-Book Authors

This move is a no-brainer for Apple as it seeks to match what Amazon is doing with its Kindle platform, said Ben Bogardus, an assistant professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University.

"Hosting books on its servers costs virtually nothing, and the company takes a cut of every sale, so it seems to be a win-win for both independent authors and Apple," he told MacNewsWorld.

In addition, it diminishes what was once a unique aspect of the Kindle, Bogardus noted.

Breakout Books is a win for authors too, said Scott Lorenz, president of Westwind Communications Book Marketing.

This move by Apple helps advance self-published authors worldwide by giving them an even bigger platform to showcase their work," he told MacNewsWorld.

Some Doubts

Whether this move will be good for self-published authors is not an open-and-shut case, however.

"Apple offers a strong channel, but also a very expensive and controlling channel," Cliff Conneighton, senior vice president at Hybris, told MacNewsWorld. "Forward-thinking publishers large and small are realizing they have another option -- to sell direct to consumers and keep the margin for themselves."

Still, if that were a surefire route, more self-published authors would have succeeded with it. Although self-publishing has become far more respectable in recent years, with some books becoming best sellers, the category still carries a stigma. It clearly doesn't have the supporting infrastructure that traditional publishing does.

"Without the marketing and other buzz provided by a traditional publisher, it's difficult for the few great self-published books to find an audience," Bogardus said.

Apple's Breakout Books could represent the best of both worlds. It will be a cheap venue for self-publishers but still visible enough to give their sales a boost.

The e-books featured on the site appear to be curated. Apple calls the books a "hand-picked collection" that have "earned high ratings from customers like you."

How Much Competitive Heft?

For all it has going for it, Breakout Books is unlikely to dislodge Amazon's hold on the e-book market.

"Ultimately Apple won't blow away the competition, because Amazon is No. 1 in this space and has always had an amazing delivery system," Fran Black, founder of Literary Counsel and principal of E-Lit Books, told MacNewsWorld.

"Of course, whenever Apple enters into a marketplace, competitors have reason to be concerned," she said. "There may be a lot of attention given to Apple at the start, but when the dust settles, I believe Amazon will prevail."

The iPad is heavier than most e-readers and costs more, she observed.

"The iPad mini may be more advantageous for e-reading and self-publishing, but its screen is smaller," said Black, and "it's still more expensive than the Kindle and Nook."

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