Battle of the e-Books

POSTED BY Global Administrator

An interesting factoid came into my inbox yesterday evening, courtesy of the faithful electronic newsgatherers at Fierce Mobile Content (who had themselves garnered the aforementioned factoid from Mobclix): namely, that books now outnumber games on Apple’s App Store. This is partly attributable to the classification system on the Store in which apps that you know and I know are really games have been slipped into the Entertainment category, but still, kudos to Books for clocking up 26,500 apps versus Games’ 25,000.

However, as many authors will tell you, it is one thing getting your book in the shelves in the retail store; quite another getting Joe Public to part with the readies so that the book makes the transition to the shelf in his library. That’s why books still don’t feature prominently in the top downloads – whether free or paid-for – according to Mobclix’s own rankings, the first book in the paid category – Dr Zeuss’s ABC – doesn’t trouble us until No.38 in the charts, and is the only book in the top fifty; furthermore, this is one more chart entry than books achieve in the free content area (currently topped by a game called Icy Escort). Despite being toppled from their pinnacle in terms of titles, games still predominate in the popularity stakes: there were a dozen of them in the top 20 paid titles, and a further 11 in the top 20 freebies.

At this point, the fuddy-duddy in me is going to have his grumpy old man say. I like books: proper books, books with spines and paper pages, books that I can arrange on my shelves, books that I can look at as well as read. As I child, I was taken on a regular basis to the wonderful second-hand book empire that Richard Booth and other like-minded individuals were building in Hay-on-Wye, and would always return home laden with a dozen or more volumes, having spent the day immersed in the sights and smells of books of all shapes and sizes: I still have – somewhere – an edition of the Tatler with contributions from Jonathan Swift dating from 1721 which I picked up at Hay more than twenty years ago.  In short, you could put half a million books on the App Store and I wouldn’t go for any of ‘em.

But that’s just me, and Amazon’s Kindle has demonstrated that there are others out there beyond the grumpy old men: although the company is keeping schtum on numbers, it is thought that more than two million Kindles had been sold by the end of 2009, and according to CEO Jeff Bezos, Amazon is now selling six books for the Kindle for every 10 physical books with the same titles.

Meanwhile, Apple’s iPad will shortly be hitting the stores – which is presumably the main reason underpinning this uplift in e-books for the App Store. Because the iPad, as well as being a rather nifty games console and video device, will also serve as a first rate e-reader.

If you’re one of the millions who are in to that kind of thing, of course.

Your correspondent suddenly feels very old…