Apple and Indie Publishers

Today the Wall Street Journal did a piece about how the government has been screwing with Apple over the iBooks store. Even though I’m a lawyer, I’ve never practiced anti-trust law and I’m baffled by what is going on. However, I do have some observations from my vantage point as a publisher.

Apple Made it Possible for Me to Make Awesome Books

When I first started writing Paperless, the iBooks store did not exist. There were no snazzy tools for me to incorporate rich-media with text and I was facing up to the fact that I was going to have to Frankenstein ePub and PDF to get what a wanted, a book that not only told you how but also showed you how. I spent weeks researching and testing and still didn’t have it nailed down. Then Apple announced iBooks Author and the iBooks store and I immediately abandoned all prior efforts and jumped to the new platform. iBooks Author gives me exactly what I need to publish the books I want to make. 

Apple Treats Indie Authors With Respect

Apple didn’t only give me the authoring tools, they also provided me the ability to distribute the books. Getting hooked into the iBooks store system was not an insurmountable task, even for a small indie publisher like me. I’ve sold a lot more books through the iBooks store than I ever would have going it on my own. Moreover, Apple supports indie authors. Don’t believe me? Here is a screenshot from the iBooks Store home page taken earlier today.

Screenshot 2013-12-06 14.46.57.png

Amazon’s initial author royalty was just 35%. To make $7, I’d need to sell my books for $20. It wasn’t until Apple’s looming arrival that Amazon upped that to 70%, matching the App Store. Amazon’s 70% royalty, however, comes with a catch. Amazon also charges authors a “download fee”. The fee is currently $ 0.15 per MB. With my 1GB sized media-rich books, my download fee would be $150 per book.

That’s right. $150.

So to earn my $7, I would need to sell the book for $160 with $150 in delivery costs payable to Amazon and an additional $3 to Amazon for its cut of the royalty. Looking at this page, it looks as if Amazon has an option where they will waive the delivery cost if I agree to give them 65% of the sale. Both of these options are a raw deal for us authors.

Apple serves up my 1GB book and takes 30% of my sale. There is no wonky accounting and I get my $7 for every $10 book. Moreover, Apple earns that $3 by developing my publishing tool, keeping the lights on at the iBooks Store, and covering the cost of serving 1GB sized books to every customer.

How the United States Government can figure this is anti-competitive is still lost on me. Without Apple entering the market, I simply would not be able to publish the MacSparky Field Guides.