Since the iPad launched in Australia on May 28th this year, the iBooks store has been a dull shade of brown. The reason – book rights. One would assume that between the iPad announcement and it’s release, Apple would have been working with Australian publishers to get licensing sorted. Apparently not, even with the month-long delay of the Australian iPad launch and the months since then, the iBook store is still a dull shade of brown.
The books that are available are part of Project Gutenberg, a movement to distribute older works that have reached public domain status. Whilst the books are free, copyright law prevents work being entered into the public domain until every last possible skerrick of change can be stripped from the book +about 50 years. So if your after anything recent, your out of luck.
What is surprising is that other publishing platforms have been able to get the deals done to distribute Australian titles electronically. Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Borders all have their own iPad applications offering a decent catalogue (including coloured covers). So while competition is usually great for consumers, Apple’s “integrated experience” is essentially broken when it comes to iBooks as users have to resort to alternate options.
The current state of iBooks in Australia is a shame given the iBooks app actually has some great features. iBooks does great job with iPhone/iPad page synchronization and PDF support.
Below you can see screens from the US iBooks store, full of engaging, colourful book covers. This is a result of Apple establishing deals with multiple US-based publishing / distributing firms.
So how long will Australians have to wait for a decent iBooks offering ? Are book publishers hesitant to hand over their library to Apple in fear of being the new Music industry.