In a move that could have a significant impact on e-book delivery systems, Apple has tightened control of its App Store, notifying some application developers that they will not be permitted to "sell content, like e-books, within their apps, or let customers have access to purchases they have made outside the App Store," the New York Times reported.
Apple rejected Sony’s iPhone application, which would have let people read e-books bought from the Sony Reader Store. Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division, said his company was told that all in-app purchases will now have to go through Apple.
This shift in Apple's strategy may also affect other companies--notably Amazon--that currently sell e-readers and offer free mobile apps so customers can read e-book purchases on other devices. Until now, for example, an iPad owner could buy and read Kindle books without owning a Kindle.
"It’s the opposite of what we wanted to bring to the market," Haber said. "We always wanted to bring the content to as many devices as possible, not one device to one store."
Forrester Research's James L. McQuivey observed, "This sudden shift perhaps tells you something about Apple’s understanding of the value of its platform. Apple started making money with devices. Maybe the new thing that everyone recognizes is the unit of economic value is the platform, not the device.”
Should Amazon pay sales tax in Tennessee after it builds two new distribution centers there? Amazon executives argue the facilities will be for shipping rather than retail, exempting the company from tax collection requirements; and "state leaders might give the Internet Goliath just that as a 'thank you' of sorts for the jobs the company will create at the distribution complex," the Tennessean reported. But other retailers, ranging from independent bookstores to big box chains, disagree.
"I think that's unfair," said Laura Hill, co-owner of Reading Rock Books, Dickson. "We also sell books online, and we have to charge sales tax. So why shouldn't they? Our state needs that money."
Jason Brewer, a spokesman for Retailer Industry Leaders Association, added: "A company the size of Amazon with $14 billion in sales should not be given a government-sponsored advantage over brick-and-mortar retailers."
"If you buy a book from them, and they don't have to charge (nearly a) 10% sales tax, that amounts to a government subsidy of our competitors," said Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association. "I understand the economic development argument, and certainly Tennessee ought to do what it can to get jobs, but what about the retailers in Tennessee and all the folks they employ?"
State Representative Steve McManus, chairman of the House Commerce Committee, predicted that Amazon will ultimately win the battle: "I find it difficult to believe they'd move to Tennessee without it."
This week's scheduled Cairo Book Fair, "the largest and oldest in the Arab world, usually attracting two million visitors and a host of authors," has been abandoned because of widespread protests and curfews imposed across the city, "with many foreign exhibitors left stranded after failing to secure flights to take them out of the country," the Guardian reported.
"There was no official announcement by fair organizers that the event had been cancelled, but [President Hosni] Mubarak did not come," said Salwa Gaspard, director of independent publisher Saqi Books, which has offices in London and Beirut. "Our representative from Beirut was lucky enough to find a plane home, but people are still there."
Other international visitors, including representatives from the U.K.'s Publishers Association and the Frankfurt Book Fair, cancelled their flights or left ahead of time last week, the Guardian wrote
New Hampshire indie booksellers exploring the Google eBookstore option were the subject of a feature by the Manchester Union Leader, which reported that a "committed following and timeless love of literature help keep these stores in business, and many bookstore owners recognize that as the times change, they, too, must change to keep their customers entertained."
Michael Herrmann, owner of Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, suggested that the emergence of e-books has been overestimated: "Think about all of those books you've enjoyed, or maybe not enjoyed so much. Looking at your bookshelf and seeing all those books evokes all of these memories. How can you do that with e-books? There is no soul to it. That is my view."
Whatever the format, the priority for Dan Chartrand, owner of Water Street Bookstore, Exeter, is "to make buying and sharing books enjoyable." He believes a local bookstore "provides many services and features: a congenial place to meet and discuss books, a knowledgeable staff of voracious readers ready with recommendations, events that allow local residents to interact with authors and discover new titles, and the ability to browse thousands of books in a short span of time. He also recognizes that many people are exploring e-book options," the Union Leader wrote.
While Water Street is already taking advantage of the new relationship between the ABA and Google eBooks, RiverRun Bookstore, Portsmouth, is considering the possibility. Owner Tom Holbrook "has been using a local company to run the store's website, but may switch over to the ABA-supported website to offer e-books."
Toadstool Bookshops--in Keene, Peterborough and Milford--went online with the Google program in December and co-owner Willard Williams noted that the agency model for pricing is what makes the Google eBook/ABA partnership work: "That helps the independent bookstores considerably, because if we can encourage people to support us and our website, and order books through us that way, they are getting exactly the same product, and we can hope to gain a little bit of that market.
"The problem with those who are not is that the pricing on those books is often very, very low when they are being sold by someone like Amazon, or even Google itself. As far as e-books go, unless more publishers go to an agency model, you can write off independent bookstores from being any part of that."
RiverRun's Holbrook observed that "it is important to draw that distinction between e-books and e-commerce, which seems to be all about capturing eyeballs and people rather than making money selling books, or doing it through sheer volume. I am not a business person who just wants to figure out what I can buy and sell to make money off of. I am someone who particularly wants to sell and share books."
Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in New York City "is one of the country's coolest bookstores," Gadling observed in its profile of a bookshop whose owner "thinks cookbooks shouldn't just be for, you know, cooking."
"When I look at an old cookbook, it takes me away, to another place," said Slotnick. "My customers tell me they read them like novels, detective stories, and even like porn."
Consider this under the category of sidelines with potential... for word lovers. The REUSE blog at 1-800-RECYCLING.com featured "Ten Creative Ways to Recycle Scrabble Tiles." The repurposed computer keyboards could become standard equipment for all Shelf Awareness editors.
Sign of the times: a publication adding book reviews has become a newsworthy development. TechCrunch's Paul Carr is exploring the possibility of "writing a semi-regular book review column... I don't mean the pure 'tech' books of the O'Reilly oeuvre, but rather works concerning digital culture and how technology is affecting politics, journalism, art and society as a whole. It would probably include the occasional novel too. And might--might--take the form of a very informal book club."
And now for something completely different: storigami. Flavorwire showcased featherproof books, a publisher that has "pioneered a whole new way to read short stories: in origami form. Hence, though we're sure you've already gotten there, storigami.... If you think you're up to the challenge, just print out the images, follow the instructions, and then read and let the stories--wait for it--unfold."
You've read Beowulf, now you can wear it. Boing Boing showcased a "wicked knitting pattern to make a pair of socks bearing a reproduction of the introductory text in the oldest surviving manuscript of Beowulf. The design is by Gryphon Perkins, and costs $5."
Book trailer of the day: Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston (HarperTeen).
Effective February 14, Gonzalo Ferreyra will be director of marketing,
print and digital, at Weldon Owen Publishing in San Francisco, Calif. He
was most recently v-p of sales at Viz Media and before that was
director of sales and marketing at Ten Speed Press.