22% for iBooks – Was Steve Jobs trying to mislead us?

Here’s what was in Steve Jobs’ presentation regarding iBooks’ share of the ebook market place  -

  1. On the Slide – 22% Share of total eBook sales.  Check the image at the bottom of Engadget’s coverage of the Apple conference.
  2. What he said (one version) – Publishers tell us that sales of their eBook sales are at 22% right now. 22% in iBooks.
  3. What he said (a second version) – 5 of 6 biggest Publishers tell us that share of eBooks is now 22%.

What has happened is that we have had the Press react in multiple ways -

  • The majority have interpreted it to mean that iBooks has 22% of the eBooks market. 
  • A small minority are focused on it being 22% for Agency Model Publishers and consider that significant. 
  • Another small minority think the numbers mean nothing.

Whether or not Steve Jobs intended to get that reaction – It’s the best possible reaction. The current press interpretation will help Apple to get more Publishers on-board and to a lesser extent will help iPad sales.

The Things that Steve Jobs forgot to mention

You could make a good argument that except for the first the others aren’t absolutely essential. We could make a counter argument that while not essential they are important enough to mention -

  1. 5 of the 6 biggest Publishers translates to less than 50% of the market. The Slide should have read – 22% share of 50% of the eBook market.
  2. These Agency Model Publishers had just raised prices 30% to 50% and their share of ebook sales almost certainly dipped compared to Random House and Indie Publishers and Authors.
  3. Lots of Kindle owners and Nook owners were boycotting Agency Model Publishers – meaning even more of a skew towards iBooks users who were less likely to boycott or even know about increased prices.
  4. Penguin stopped selling new books in the Kindle Store. 
  5. iPad owners had just bought their devices and were far more likely to buy books – the new device effect.

The first is definitely a huge, huge thing to forget to mention. By saying 5 of 6 biggest Publishers Steve Jobs creates the impression that the 22% applies to the entire market and he strengthens it with the slide.

The other 4 points should also be mentioned if you want to validate a claim that your channel now owns 22% of the market. On the other hand – if you want to create the impression that your product owns 22% of the market when it owns much less then what Steve Jobs did is perfect.

The Things that Steve Jobs did remember to add-on

Almost as important as what he left out is what he added i.e.

  • iBooks owners downloaded 5 million books.
  • That it translates to 2.5 books per iPad owner.

These figures are obviously supposed to give the impression that the 22% market share is valid.

You could argue that they were never meant to be used as evidence of 22% market share – However, they were mentioned right before the 22% figure was announced and everyone is interpreting them as evidence.

The Trend of Implying things without overtly lying

You begin to see this trend everywhere with Apple’s marketing -

  1. The implication is something very stunning. In this case it’s 22% market share for iBooks. 
  2. There is evidence that seems to add to the implication. In this case the downloads of 5 million books.
  3. Dig deeper and the holes show up – No mention that it is 22% of 50% or less of the ebook market. No mention of whether the downloads are paid or free.

It creates the intended effect without ever having to prove it. If someone disputes the claim (as Kindle owners at the Kindle forum are) Steve Jobs can just go back to his exact words and claim that he never said 22% market share of all ebooks – Even though that’s exactly what the slide says.  

Unintended Slip or Borderline Ethics or Excellent Marketing?

Here’s how people will probably interpret it -

  1. Apple fans – It’s a slip. He was precise in his words. Who cares about anyone other than Agency Model Publishers anyways.  
  2. Kindle owners – That’s shady. It’s pretty obvious that he’s trying to create the impression that iBooks has 22% of market share although it actually has 11% or less. 
  3. Marketing People – Wow! That’s amazing marketing. No wonder he sells so many iWhatevers.

The interesting thing is that this isn’t the only part of the keynote that people are questioning.

Retina Display might not be as magical as we thought

Reuters covers Wired’s article which points out that Apple is again going overboard on marketing -

  1. Steve Jobs claimed that 300 pixels per inch was the limit of the human retina for a display about a foot away.
  2. Wired references an expert who differs from Steve Jobs -

    Soneira, who possesses a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Princeton and has been studying displays for 20 years, said it was inaccurate to measure the resolution of the eye in terms of pixels, because the eye actually has an angular resolution of 50 cycles per degree.

    Therefore, if we were to compare the resolution limit of the eye with pixels on a screen, we must convert the angular resolution to linear resolution. After conversions are made, a more accurate “retina display” would have a pixel resolution of 477 pixels per inch at 12 inches, Soneira calculated.

  3. Obviously Apple is not going to say we are at around 50% of what the perfect display is. However, that doesn’t mean he should claim his display is as good as it could possibly get.

To be fair the expert did say that we might not realistically need anything better than the new iPhone screen’s 326 pixel per inch display.

Apple also forgot to mention that the improved resolution is only worthwhile if apps and content are made to match it i.e. existing apps will mostly not be taking advantage of this improved resolution.

Let’s end with something the expert, Soneira, said -

“If you and I have the world’s greatest display, and we launched it and put down the real scientific numbers, we’d go bankrupt because our numbers would look like the worst display being made.”

You have to suspect that’s what Apple is trying to do with eReaders and eBooks – use its war of perception and its tentacles in the Press to outsell a better product (Better for reading). That’s what the Kindle and Nook and Sony Reader are up against – they might be the best reading devices but they have to fight the illusion of ‘best reading device’ that Apple is conjuring up for the iPad.

2 Responses

  1. So a couple of things…

    1) If you read up on his presentation style, especially The Presentations Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo (great book), you’ll note that some of the keys to his brilliance in presentation is NOT overloading slides with text. They are 100% minimalist. In listening to him, he talks much more about what the 22% represents, and the keynote was not meant to be interpreted by a few screenshots on engadget.

    In reality, the only thing anyone should take away is that the iPad has reinvented the tablet market as a successful one and will be a major player in eBooks on top of that. Will it ERASE the Kindle? No, but it will seriously encroach on it. If I only wanted to read, I’d carry my Kindle more. Since I’d rather have one device to do it all (and it is a good reader 90% of the time, sunlit beaches as an obvious exception), I carry the iPad as often as I can, leaving a laptop and a Kindle at home.

    2) The apps will support the higher PPI, and quickly. A couple of facets here. One is that the SDK makes this incredibly easy, the hardest part will be providing higher quality bitmaps. For developers who do NOTHING, it’s already widely reported that text will automatically be rendered at the higher resolution, so apps like Kindle specifically will immediately benefit, without any action by Amazon.

    3) iBooks supporting PDF is a BIG thing, although to be honest I dropped a buck on GoodReader a long time ago. The good news is, I can continue to buy from Amazon anyway, and use a Kindle on the occasions when I carry it. But to discount iBooks is short sighted, it’s going to be HUGE, and to a certain extent already is.

  2. I remain unconvinced that iBooks will be a really big deal. The iPad for ebooks? yes. Ibooks- no,

    1) 2,5 books downloaded for iPads is VERY SMALL AND MEANS NOTHING. I will assume for discussion purposes that the figure does NOT include the free Winnie the Pooh download. Even so, that figure is miniscule. AND, I believe that the majority of downloads were free books or very cheap books. even if not, 2.5 books over 2 months for iPad owners is NOTHING! It just proves that iPad owners are not readers.

    2) Jobs did not give any figures for kindle downloads to the iPad. (He may not have those numbers.) I’ll bet it is at a much higher rate that 2.5 per (for those who have downloaded the Kindle app only of course).

    3) Once you factor in the Agency 5, Penguin, random House, etc, that 22% number means nothing.

    In short, the iBookstore is not a big success- AND may subject Apple to Attorney general anti-trust review. (I love that!)

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