Friday, July 16, 2010

The Bloom is Off the Rose as Apple's Free iBooks App Slips to #8, But It's Still #1 in Our Cumulative Top Charts Rankings, While Kindle May Lead in Actual iPad eBook Sales

By Stephen Windwalker
Editor of Planet iPad ©Planet iPad 2010

Apple's free iBooks app -- seen so recently by agency model publishers as the White Knight that would save them from Amazon and the Kindle -- has slipped dramatically in popularity with iPad owners, and the proof is right here for all to see in the radiant color of an iPad screen shot taken at 10:30 AM Eastern July 16, 2010.

After leading the iPad apps' Top Charts rankings for most of the past 3 1/2 months since the iPad's April 3 release date, and only occasionally slipping as low as #3, the free iBooks app fell to #5 yesterday and #8 this morning.

Of course the news is not quite as bleak, for Apple's new incarnation as a bookseller, as this might seem at first blush. Due to the vagaries of Apple's Top Charts listings, position is based on a chronologically brief sample of recent app downloads, so that it is extremely sensitive at any given time to what we'll call "the flavor of the week," or even "of the day." In other words, apps that are brand new or newly buzzworthy sometimes dominate the charts for a day or two before falling back. And then there's the additional fact, of course, that anyone who downloads does not have to download it again, which would mean that the iBooks app rankings could suffer if the iPad's sales momentum were to flag a bit.

With these list-shaping issues in mind, we've kept a close watch on the iPad apps' Top Charts rankings on a daily basis since the first week of April, and as a result we are able to present -- with a high but not absolute level of confidence -- what a cumulative Top Charts ranking would look like for the iPad free apps listing if it were adjusted to exclude the "flavor of the week" bounces described above:
  1. iBooks 
  2. Netflix
  3. Weather Channel
  4. Kindle  
  5. USA Today 
  6. ABC Player
  7. WebMD  
  8. Pandora 
  9. NPR 
  10. Barnes & Noble eReader
These rankings, of course, will differ dramatically from rankings -- rankings that we're unlikely to see, I might add -- based on the actual level of commerce transacted. Based on what we know about relative size and quality of catalog, prices, methods of payment, and customer behavior, here's my educated guess as to the likely revenue ranking among free iPad apps:
  1. Kindle 
  2. Netflix 
  3. iBooks 
  4. B&N
Although there is early excitement to try out iBooks' spiffy functionality when a customer first receives an iPad, the fact that the iBooks catalog is dwarfed by the Kindle catalog (reportedly on the order of 15:1 or 20:1 after public domain titles are excluded) ultimately leads regular readers to more Kindle transactions.

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