June 11, 2013

Apple brings iBooks to OSX for that lucrative masochist market


Just five people, relaxing, enjoying the latest Melville House book on iBooks.

Apple, the shockingly wealthy manufacturer that people still respect, somehow, held another of their sweaty moodlight product announcements on Monday and—surprise!—Apple has a few new products. There’s a shiny new isomething, it seems, and their fastest computer looks like a jet engine now, but our chief concern is that Apple is finally bringing their iBooks app to their OSX non-mobile operating system.

iBooks, the previously exclusively mobile app, is Apple’s answer to the Kindle, Nook, and Google Play apps, an environment for reading and buying ebooks. Porting it to a desktop environment demands one immediate question: what? Or, no, two questions: what? and why in the hell?

Well, the larger why is evident enough: Apple would like to move to the point where the nuts and bolts of desktop computing are further obscured behind lovely skins, bringing the app aesthetic to where it is least necessary. The years in which most desktop computers operate much like their mobile counterparts will soon be upon us. Whether that is good or bad for computing and our lifestyles generally is a question for a longer debate by more knowledgeable writers.

What is not up for debate: nobody reads books on their desktop. One of the marvels of the past decade has been to watch just how directly the method of our reading dictates the form of what we’re willing to read. The rise of mobile has meant, in a very real way, the possibility of ebooks and a return to longform journalism online. Before that they were largely impossible because, again, nobody reads books on their computer.

To test this hypothesis I took to twitter yesterday—the most scientific method, surely—and asked the carefully balanced question:

I got no answers: undeniable proof that nobody reads on their computers.

Another reason Apple has taken this step is simply to give people access to the books they’ve purchased across all devices: earlier iterations of iTunes, through which Apple previously sold ebooks, did not come paired with epub reading capabilities. Even if people aren’t going to read books on their computers, it’s nice to know that now they could, if they happen to be some kind of asshole with balletic posture and tailbones of steel.

There is also the outside chance, on which Apple is no doubt counting, that this could leave to more book sales for Apple. If buying the book and reading the book are paired even on the desktop, and if users are trained from their mobile experience to use the app when they need to purchase books, Apple keeps buyers within their own store and out of the relative freedom of the internet where they might happen upon something so tawdry as an independent bookseller.

This is not the silver bullet that Apple needs to win the ebook wars. They may still be won and lost on the hardware front. But if it makes some hypothetical desk reader out there happy, so be it.


Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.