The iPad won't make its market debut until March, but Apple CEO Steve Jobs is already jockeying for e-reader leadership. Jobs told The Wall Street Journal that publishers are withholding their e-books from Amazon.com -- because they aren't happy with the digital book-selling giant.
Apple's iPad is preparing to move into the territory dominated by Amazon.com and its Kindle e-reader. Apple launched the iBooks app for the iPad along with the iBookstore, which Apple is billing as the best way to browse, buy and read books on a mobile device. Apple hasn't listed its e-book prices yet, but Jobs is priming the pump for a battle.
"Steve Jobs is right. The publishers aren't happy with Amazon," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "Amazon did give some concessions to publishers shortly before the iPad launched, but the Kindle has not been a publisher favorite. Newspapers and magazines aren't happy with the device, either, because it doesn't offer the text in columns with embedded advertising."
Analyst predictions for iPad sales range from four million to 10 million in the first year. Enderle's projections range from four million to six million, depending on the competitive response. Amazon isn't likely to roll over and let Apple take over the e-book publishing world like it did the digital music world. But Amazon may have to make adjustments to compete with the iPad and the third generation of e-readers from competitors.
"Amazon and Kindle are going to have to dramatically up their game if they are going to hold. The Kindle is supposed to go through a refresh at the end of the year," Enderle said. "It's supposed to get a better display in the five-inch product than the iPad has, which would, if true, address the rendering problems."
Amazon can make changes to its licensing and revenue models to make publishers happier and is more closely aligned with book publishers than is Apple, at least at this point. Book publishers may not be happy with Amazon, Enderle said, but they are scared to death of Apple after witnessing the company's impact on the music industry. Publishers don't want to work for Apple or Amazon, he said, and are likely to pit the companies against each other.
Let the Battle Begin
"The battle isn't engaged between Apple and Amazon, except on paper, because the Apple product doesn't exist yet. I think we'll have a better idea of how the battle is going to go when both companies actually run against each other full tilt in the fourth quarter and both sides have advantages," Enderle said.
"Amazon has an advantage because they've been more closely coupled to this kind of media for much longer, and Apple has an advantage because they are an incredible marketing powerhouse and arguably stronger in that regard than Amazon is," he said. "But both companies have done very well financially. Both companies are at the top of their game at the moment."