Digital dilemma?

Apple is moving ahead with a new video streaming service for its customers, which looks likely to expand to affect books as well as visual entertainment.  In the excerpt below, bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

Apple is preparing a new digital video service that will marry original content and subscription services from legacy media companies, according to people familiar with the matter … The product will include Apple-owned content, which will be free to Apple device owners, and subscription “channels,” which will allow customers to sign up for online-only services, such as those from HBO and Starz.

. . .

Apple is also trying to persuade executives of print media companies to join Texture, the company’s digital magazine product that it acquired earlier this year. Stern is also in charge of acquiring content for this effort and has had some difficulty persuading news organizations to give Apple control of the subscriber billing relationship, according to people familiar with the matter. Keeping direct control of customers’ purchasing decisions gives companies more ways of preventing them from canceling services (or adding new ones).

There’s more at the link.  Recommended reading.

The article doesn’t mention books;  but I’ll be very surprised if Apple’s offerings don’t expand to include a book “channel” for its customers.  Given the smash success of Kindle Unlimited (KU) for Amazon, it would be astonishing if Apple ignored the potential for such a revenue stream.  After all, Walmart is getting in on the act via its alliance with Kobo, which could also grow into a “channel” product like this.  I’m sure other retailers can’t be far behind.

All that spells very bad news for traditional book outlets such as Barnes & Noble, of course.  That company has made such a mess of itself that it’s hard to think it could do worse;  but if it allows other companies to set up alternate outlets for book and reading matter consumption, that might cut B&N out of the loop entirely.  One wonders how long the company can survive in such an environment.

Finally, of course, this also poses a challenge to independent authors.  Can we find ways to include our books in such channel-type distribution systems?  Perhaps more importantly, can we be paid at a level that justifies our participation?  Amazon’s KU is already a major bone of contention, with some authors withdrawing their books entirely from Kindle Select because it’s hard to earn a decent return from KU “borrows”.  One can sympathize with them.  I’d say KU has cut into my earnings by at least a third, perhaps three-eighths.  However, I can’t afford to do without KU revenues, so I’m kinda stuck in that program for now.

Can channel-based programs such as Apple’s offer an alternative to KU, and will it be a cost-effective one?  Only time will tell.  What say you, fellow writers and readers?



  1. $HOUSEMATE updated Mac (or tried to) to ‘Mojave’… and the hardware quit booting. This is a long time Mac fan (before the Mac, the desktop machine was an SGI… and there was a Win2k machine around) but now.. now is the pondering of dumping OS X and Being Done With It.

    1. One of the selling points for a Mac used to be the longevity of the hardware, you could generally count on the computer functioning two or three times a typical Windows PC three year life.
      But Apple now upgrades the OS every year and only supports current and past two, so no legacy security updates, and the past few updates incorporate “features” that prevent them from running at all on older machines. Can’t think of a quicker or more sure way to kill off your fan base.

        1. Their hardware is made by Foxconn, right next to HP’s Business machines- esp their workstations.

      1. And that is why after having iPhone after iPhone… there was a switch to Android (which has similar issue, yes, but there is more choice and price point variance).

  2. I had lousy experiences as an author with iBooks, and I’m reluctant to deal with Apple again, at least for now. Their author support was about as helpful as “Keyboard not detected. Press any key to continue.” Granted, this was in 2012-2014, but given how they’ve messed up other things recently…

  3. I don’t do Apple either.

    B&N is actually surprising me. I figured it would be out of business by now, but it somehow keeps hanging on.

    1. I still -want- to go to the bookstore and buy something. I actually did the other day, I picked up the latest Weber. (Heavy going, much info-dump, many fast-forward moments, but still worth the read.)

      But… most of the books I wanted were not there. Chapters did not have Larry C’s latest hardcover, for no reason I can discern. They have a smattering of his older paperbacks and a couple of earlier hardcovers. Other authors I like, same deal. No latest publication.

      Therefore, as much as I want to buy at the bookstore because I like the experience of doing so, I will be ordering on-line. It is cheaper, they have what I want, and it comes to my house.

  4. “Perhaps more importantly, can we be paid at a level that justifies our participation?”

    A large number of magazines etc. like Huffpoo are paying in “exposure.” You write for free, and they put your work in front of their “huge readership.” This is supposed to get you hired someplace whey they will actually pay you, I understand.

    One foresees many, many hobbyists churning out the likes of “Empress Theresa” every few weeks, and also a great deal of MarySue fanfic of every media property that ever existed. Casablanca fanfic. Little House on the Prairie fanfic.

    Eventually the market will discover that “free” is worth every penny you paid for it. In the meantime I expect all sorts of Silicon Valley business models will be based on getting their inventory for free from desperate would-be authors.

  5. Did everyone just forget the huge hullabaloo a few years ago when Apple was at the center of an ebook price-fixing collusion scheme and had convinced seven major publishers to go along with it? The only reason they’re starting to look back at ebooks now is because Apple was literally banned from the book market in Europe for five years after they got caught.

    Sorry Apple, but my books won’t ever show up on a service you offer. You’ve shown far too much bad faith toward authors and consumers in the past. I’m not forgetting that.

  6. I think Apple has a reasonable record of paying content producers, always with the qualification that they’re running a business, not a foundation for the arts. And while Apple have a small market share by volume for their products, the people who buy their stuff are, on average, in higher income brackets and spend more on additional products and services.

    So if their publication format isn’t too horrific to deal with, I imagine pubiishing for Apple will become one more step in the PDF/ePub/… formatting and upload sequence that authors already have to deal with. Worth it for sales into a small but affluent audience.

    On the other hand there’s already been one case of Apple commissioning an original TV show and then deciding it was a bit too original for their liking:

    So if Apple want exclusive content it could get tricky for anyone considered edgy, provocative, or experimental.

      1. Yeah, this is much more what I expect. You go to all the trouble of formatting and uploading your insufficiently PC work to the Apple Store, and some middle management NPC deletes it because “terms of service.”

        Like Twitter. And Farcebook. And Splotify. And YouTube. And Etc. Amazon (so far) is the only one that doesn’t delete conservatives.

  7. The feeling I always got with Apple was they were doing you a big favor to take you money so you too could pretend to be one of the cool kids.

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