Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Could Apple's iBooks Catalog Be Approaching 100,000 Titles?

By Stephen Windwalker
Copyright © 2010 iPad Nation Daily

Could the title count in Apple's iBooks Store be approaching 100,000 titles just a month after launch?

A helpful new breakdown of titles in Apple's iBooks catalog by O'Reilly Radar's Ben Lorica shows Project Gutenberg as the publisher for 31.4% of all listings, which is about double the number of listings for each of the three largest private publishing conglomerates (Penguin US, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins) and over four times the total for MacMillan or Hachette. Random House, the world's largest publisher of English-language books, is unrepresented on the iBooks venue due to the publisher's refusal to submit to Apple's brave new "agency model" world.

Fiction leads the way with 54% of all the listings detected by Lorica, and despite some concerns that Apple would play a heavyhanded censorship role, 1% of all titles are categorized as Erotica.

This breakdown avoids any repetition of last week's controversy over the number of titles, since Lorica sticks with percentages of the whole without reference to the size of the whole. Apple press office spokesman Tom Neumayr contacted iPad Nation Daily Monday and confirmed that "we definitely have over 60,000 titles in the iBooks catalog."

Indeed, if one juxtaposes the 31.4% Gutenberg percentage with previous reports of 30,000 free Gutenberg-based listings in the Kindle Store, one could extrapolate that the iBooks catalog has grown to about 96,000 titles, but all such figures will remain highly suspect until Apple itself announces some updated catalog count figures.

As Marion Maneker observed earlier this week in a post at The Big Money, "these early numbers suggest that the iPad is very much a direct competitor to the Kindle and that books are a moderate success on the device. It would be interesting to know where the Kindle app stands in relation to these app and iBook numbers. Alas, the one thing Amazon seems to have adopted from Apple is the same obsession with selective numbers and secrecy."

But the Kindle Store does reveal Google-like search counts on catalog searches and consequently allows a high level of transparency for those of us who are curious about such matters, while Apple's various retail stores reveal little of such information.  Apple's Neumayr was uncertain Monday about whether the company would become more open about title counts, but promised to share any such revelations, if they occur, with iPad Nation Daily.

Of course, Project Gutenberg is not the only source of free books in the iBooks Store. There are few if any of the "free promotional titles" that currently occupy the dozen or so highest rungs on the Kindle Store bestseller list, but free ebooks from the DIY/indie publishing service Smashwords do hold four of the top 70 spots on the iBooks "Top Charts" for free books:
  • #41 - All Employees Are Marketers (Business)
  • #49 - Nostradormouse (Children)
  • #65 - Time Zone (Fiction)
  • #66 - The Nude (Short Story)
The other two free titles that are interspersed with Smashwords and Project Gutenberg offerings among the top 70 iBooks "Top Charts" listings for free books are Crossway's ESV Bible at #36 and, rather strangely, Winnie the Pooh at #62. Since Winnie the Pooh is automatically downloaded free to every iPad owner who downloads the iBooks app, one wonders how it could rank anywhere but #1 among the top iBooks "Top Charts" listings for free books. I would understand if Apple chose not to count Winnie the Pooh either among the "Top Charts" listings or in the math that supported the company's press release Monday, which stated that the million or so new iPad owners had downloaded 1.5 million iBooks titles in April. But if it is being counted, how could it be #62?

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