Dear Apple, let’s talk about iBooks

Dear Apple,

I’m sure you don’t know me, at least no more than any of your other millions of customers. I’m someone who cares deeply about reading, readers, publishing and ebooks.

And I can’t help but notice that despite a solid effort with iBooks for five years now, Amazon is still eating your lunch in this space. Well, if you’ve got a minute, I think I have an idea on how you can turn this around in a particularly “only Apple” way.

As I’m sure you know, Amazon recently made a change to their Kindle Unlimited program. They’re going to pay authors who sign up to have their books in this all-you-can-eat subscription program by the page read by the customer. This is an amazing idea. Authors will get paid on a merit system; write a great book, one people can’t help but finish, and you make more money.

But what if it went both ways? What if instead of a $10/month flat fee, tying (presumably, as Amazon never actually explains their numbers) the author’s payouts to something they can’t control or influence, the number of KU subscribers, people simply paid for what they read?

I’ll cut to the chase. I’m suggesting you make iBooks a pay-by-the-word marketplace. Like Amazon, you know how much of which books people actually read; it’s how you sync their place between devices.

How about taking a cue from Apple Music (really looking forward to this) and letting everyone build their own “collection” of ebooks from the entirety of the iBooks library for free. Let them categorize and sort to their hearts’ content.

And then when they actually download and read those books, charge them a nickel for every thousand words. Reading a short story in such a way might only rack up a quarter. A novel, five bucks. And then, using the millions of credit cards you already have authorized in iTunes, you automatically bill everyone at the end of the month for what they actually read.

You have all the pieces to make this work. You have the ebook catalog. You have the billing system in place. You have the ability to track (not in a creepy way) how much people read in iBooks. And if you put something like this in place, I for one would kick my nearly thousand-ebook Kindle library to the curb and use iBooks for everything.

The only thing you’d need to do is get the publishers to go along with you. You already signed them once, so this shouldn’t be too hard. And hey, if you need help negotiating, I hear Taylor Swift is available.


Jeff Kirvin