Home E-Books on the iPad: Who Controls the iBookstore’s Inventory?

E-Books on the iPad: Who Controls the iBookstore’s Inventory?

Thanks to a deal with Apple, books from Smashwords, the e-book self-publishing service for independent publishers and authors, will be featured in the new iBookstore on the iPad. There are already about 2,000 Smashwords books in the iBookstore today and as the company’s CEO Mark Coker told us, the company plans to add another 2,000 to 3,000 books in the next few weeks.

Interestingly, Apple – which is famous for strictly controlling the content of the App Store – seems to be more than happy to abdicate control over the inventory in the iBookstore to its partners.

Self-Published Books in the iBooks Store: Apple’s Deal with Smashwords

Authors and publishers simply have to follow a straightforward set of guidelines for making their e-books iPad read. All of these are related to the formatting of the books. It’s worth noting that Apple will get the same feed of books from Smashwords as Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. Publishers and authors will be able to set their own prices and after Smashwords and Apple take their cut, authors will get 60% of the digital list price.

Other iBooks Deals

Apple has made a number of direct deals with large publishing houses to supply their books to the iBooks store. Besides Smashwords, there are currently only a few other e-book content aggregators that work directly with Apple right now. One of these is LibreDigital, which Apple has certified as a trusted e-book aggregator for the iBooks store. LibreDigial works with larger publishers and has already delivered thousands of e-books from companies like Harper Collins and Hachette to the iBooks store.

Who Controls the iBooks Store?

Given the vast number of books on the market, Apple obviously can’t control the iBooktore to the same degree as it controls the App Store. Censoring books, too, would create a far larger outcry than banning a few apps. As far as we know, Apple is currently only filtering a few “naughty” words out of some e-books’ descriptions.

It is interesting that Apple is taking a very hands-off approach here, especially with regards to a self-publishing company like Smashwords. While Smashword’s catalog includes a number of great books from well known authors who simply decided that they wanted to bypass the publishing industry and publish their own books, it’s worth noting that Smashword’s requirements for including books in the iBookstore are currently just mechanical.

Are Apps Different?

While it isn’t linked directly from the iBookstore’s homepage, it is also worth noting that a large selection of erotica is already available in the store – some are from Smashwords, but quite a few are from larger publishers like Harper Collings and Penguin as well. Apps with similar content to these books would have never made it into the App Store.

What About Parental Controls?

Given that parental controls on the iPad don’t apply to e-books and that there is no ratings system for these texts, it’ll be interesting to see if Apple will decide to create its own ratings system and force publishers to adopt this if they want to be published in the store. Apple, after all, is notorious for trying to control every aspect of the user experience on its devices.

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