Harry Potter ebook model a success?

Pottermore‘s experiment of bypassing the distributors seems to a be a success.

Is this a peek into the future, where successful authors (or their publishers) will bypass platform owners (Amazon, Apple, and others) and directly offer e-versions of their top sellers to customers?

British versions of the Harry Potter series My...

Image via Wikipedia

Despite the wide availability of pirated copies, the ebook versions of the books have been widely successful.

During an interview with Radio Litopia’s “The Naked Book” Wednesday afternoon, Redmayne said Pottermore sold more than $1.5 million worth of Harry Potter books in the store’s first three days online.

via Pottermore Sells $1.5 Million Worth of Harry Potter E-Books in 3 Days – John Paczkowski – Media – AllThingsD.

What is to be seen is if JK Rowling will follow a similar strategy for the sales of her new novel. Though ebook prices have been announced, it is still not clear if the publisher of this book will bypass the Amazon, Google and Apple platforms. A Kindle version is currently available for pre-purchase, but eventually, this link might forward buyers to the publisher’s website.

The Casual Vacancy

480 pages (approximately)

ISBN  9781408704202   (hardback) price £20.00

ISBN  9781405519229   (ebook) price £11.99

ISBN  9781405519212   (audio download) £20.00

ISBN  9781405519205   (CD) price £30.00

via THE CASUAL VACANCY – Little, Brown Book Group.

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Apple to make iOS app development easier than ever?

AppleInsider.com has reported that Apple has filed a patent for a WYSIWYG editor of sorts, that will enable non-programmers to create iOS apps. This proposed digital content authoring tool would use pre-defined app templates to make app creation easy for people who don’t wish to code.

 

In other accompanying art, the filing shows a number of examples of software that could be created with an amateur-friendly content creation tool. One simple example is a game of tic tac toe, another shows a menu from a coffee shop, and a more complex example features the ability to purchase video of live performances from the show “American Idol.”

Creating these applications would be a simplified process in which the user could select a template for their software. From there, they would begin to fill in the pieces and build their own iOS application, webpage, or advertisement.

 

Patent 1

Image via AppleInsider.com

 

While this is still just a patent filing, it does fit in with Apple’s objective of reducing the friction in bringing Apps to the App Store. As building apps becomes easier, a proliferation of localized apps will increase the network of the Apple ecosystem as well as provide a nice launch pad for their (app embedded?) NFC based payment system.

 

Patent 2

Image via AppleInsider.com

 

Read more at Apple wants to make it easy for non-programmers to build iOS apps.

Harry Potter eBooks augur changes in digital publishing strategies?

The Harry Potter books are now available for purchase in ebook formats at pottermore.com. Though Amazon lists them as available, clicking on the purchase links redirects users to the pottermore site. Is this a peek into the future, where successful authors (or their publishers) will bypass platform owners (Amazon, Apple, and others) and directly offer e-versions of their top sellers to customers? By avoiding these platforms, will authors / publishers be able to charge more (or less) than the platform driven price tags of $9.99 per book? (The Harry Potter books are available for $7.99 for the first three, and $9.99 for the other four. There is also a bundle price of $57.54 for the whole collection.)

This move comes on the heels of JK Rowling‘s announcement her website that she is working on a new novel, targeted at adults.

The iPhone trails in China (too)

Samsung SGH-i400 smartphone

Image via Wikipedia

Close on the heels of a report that suggests that Apple is loosing the smartphone battle in India, Gartner reports that the iPhone has less than a third of the marketshare of Samsung in the much bigger smartphone market of China.

as Apple tries to build on its 7.5 percent share of the country’s smartphone sales. Samsung controlled 24.3 percent of the market for phones that can play videos and games, according to Gartner Inc.

 

When one considers that China is projected to become the world’s largest smartphone market next year, this should be a cause of worry.

Succeeding in China is important for Apple as shipments of smartphones in the country are projected to jump 52 percent this year to 137 million units, overtaking the U.S. for the first time as the world’s biggest market.

 

While analysts suggest that Apple’s low market share is due to its exclusive partnerships with the smaller two of three major carriers, this does not take into account the price differential between Samsung’s Android based offerings and the iPhone. One could expect that the reasons why the iPhone doesn’t rule in India also hold true in China.

Apple’s partnerships with China’s second- and third-largest carriers give it access to about 34 percent of the nation’s 988 million mobile users, while Samsung targeted the whole market.

 

As I wrote a six months ago, demographics alone can give Apple $68 billion in additional sales from emerging markets – but this is just the tip of the iceberg!

 

In the next 3 years, 400 million people are expected to buy cellphones in India alone. If Apple can get a large chunk of these consumers onto its ecosystem, the future cross-sell and up-sell opportunities will be immense.  There lie considerable riches at the bottom of the pyramid.

Moral of the story – The Exploitation of existing certainties has a potential $68 billion upside, but this pales in comparison to the potential of the Exploration of new opportunities. An ambidextrous approach could see Apple revenues grow many fold!

 

Read more at IPhone Fails to Gain China Share as Samsung Lead Triples: Tech – Bloomberg.

Google Music

With the launch of Google Music, the war for digital content is very much on. Amazon and Google present two formidable competitors to Apple’s iTunes hegemony. Key features of Google Music are:

  • Cloud-based auto syncing music library
  • Sharing of purchased music on Google+
  • Exclusive content
  • Free upload of existing music library (to a maximum of 20,000 songs) to the cloud
Music Beta by Google logo

Image via Google

A feature by feature comparison with iTunes and Amazon Music offers insight into the two critical value drivers behind Google Music – deep integration with Google+ (thus leveraging the social aspects of music consumption) and an almost unlimited capacity to transfer existing music libraries (thus reducing lock-in costs and encouraging users of other platforms to shift).

Read more at Official Google Blog: Google Music is open for business.

Why the iPhone doesn’t rule in India

This recent news report stated that Apple has found the going tough in the Indian smartphone market. Smartphones offered by RIM and Nokia outsell the iPhone by a ratio of 1:6 and 1:18 respectively. Analysts have offered two reasons for this “anomaly”. First, it is suggested that India lacks the wireless infrastructure to support the main features of the iPhone. Second, analysts claim that the Indian consumer is not mature enough for luxury products like the iPhone. The iPhone is a phone for the classes, not the masses.

Apple accounted for 2.6 per cent of India’s smartphone shipments in the quarter ended June 30, trailing RIM’s 15 per cent, Samsung Electronics Co.’s 21 per cent and Nokia’s 46 per cent, IDC estimates.

iPhone, iPhone 3G and 3GS

Image via Wikipedia

While the above points may hold some weight, another major issue seems to be that Apple is not offering enough value to the discerning Indian consumer. Apple wants to charge a premium in the Indian market, but the Apple Experience, that it is so famous for, is missing. Let’s elaborate.

First the price premium. The iPhone 3GS retails at 20,000 rupees. That is around $400 as per the current exchange rate and around $1600 as per rough PPP calculations. Compare this with Android, RIM and Nokia offerings that start at less than half the price.

The cheapest iPhone 4 costs $705 at Reliance’s iStore, while the cheapest iPad 2 sells for about $603. In Apple’s US online store, the iPhone 4 starts at $199 with an AT&T Inc contract and the iPad starts at $499.

BlackBerrys under $200 made up 40 per cent of their shipments in India in the quarter ended June 30, said TZ Wong, an analyst for IDC.

Second, the missing Apple Experience. There are no Apple stores in India. If one wants to buy an iPhone, you buy at full price (with reverse subsidy) from a carrier, or visit an Authorized Reseller (which have many locations) or a Premium Reseller (who have less locations). There is no online store. At a typical showroom of an authorized reseller, the iPhone would be one of around 30 smartphones on display. It would be the most expensive smartphone on display. Some of its accessories would not be available for sale at the same site. And one would need to set up the phone on your own computer. If you don’t have access to a computer, well you may have to take it to another location (a Premium Reseller) to get it set up.

If you decide to take the plunge and buy an iPhone, you still don’t get the full Apple Experience. If you need to get your phone repaired, you will need to take it to a Authorized Service Center. The authorized reseller from whom you purchased it cannot fix it for you. There aren’t many service centers going around – for example, only 5 service centers in Delhi fix an iPhone. That’s about 1 service center per a potential 8 million customers (there are 41 million mobile subscribers in Delhi). Once you get to the Service Center, you will find out that they only repair stuff during a fixed 5 hour window, on weekdays. You cannot call them to fix an appointment, you cannot set one up online. Once your drop off your iPhone, they will give you a time when you can come and pick it up. Till then, you are without a phone.

Oh – and by the way, if you are visiting India and your iPhone needs service – tough luck. They don’t honor the warranty on an iPhone that is not purchased in India.

Compare this with the near magical experience in an Apple store and one might start to understand why the Indian consumer is not sold on the iPhone.

However, the Indian smartphone market presents a great opportunity to Apple. It is the world’s second largest cell phone market with 602 million subscribers and 866 million mobile connections. Smartphones are expected to take off in a big way. And with the advent of the iPhone 4S, coupled with a cheap iPhone 3GS, one can expect Apple to start increasing its share of this high potential market (more on this later!).

Smartphone shipments in India are poised to jump almost eightfold, or an average of 68 per cent a year, to 81.5 million units by 2015, according to IDC.

Read more at Tough for Apple selling iPhones in India: IDC – The Times of India.