Apple And eBooks: A Horror Story

This is the most difficult post I’ve ever had to write.

Steve Jobs hates ePub. He hates eBooks.

How can anyone with his refined sense of taste not hate them?

They’re an abomination. A tasteless — and incompetent — techie committee solution to electronic books.

Seriously, can any of you see Apple creating ePub? (If you can, leave now. You don’t know Jobs or Apple.)

And iBooks? iBooks?!!!?

From the company that gave us the delightful CoverFlow …

… we now get shelves?!

And the software looks atrocious! Really, really atrocious. The shelves are bad enough, but the display samples shown at the presentation make me yearn for a Microsoft product — Microsoft Reader!

Yes, it is true: Apple has created something worse than Microsoft!

There is nothing Apple can do to make that software better. Not highlighting, not annotations, nor social notetaking. Nothing. Because underneath it all is that abomination, ePub, and nothing can help that.

I’m not even going to go into the rumors of how the iBooks software was developed. That’s Apple’s business.

My business is what this means for the future of electronic books and especially the future of writers.

There is a scene in Paddy Chayefsky’s classic movie, Network, where Howard Beale feels the wrath of God upon him.

That’s really the kind of speech I’ve been very tempted to deliver to Steve Jobs and Apple.


I don’t play poker, but let’s imagine I did and actually knew how. Across the table from me is Apple.

And I wonder what cards they’re holding.

Because iBooks is the lamest frikkin hand Apple could possibly hold in this game.

Yet Steve Jobs always wins.

So what is up his sleeve? I know some of it. I stick to that.

But something … is missing.

A certain term comes to mind. But that’s really a fool’s game.

So something else is up here.

I sit here wondering if Apple realizes this: That they can get any writer they want regardless of whatever book contract that writer is currently tied to.

Is that the game?

Or is it Disney + Pixar + Marvel as spearheads?

That second one is a clever hand and it could be enough to win. But that’s not a very bold move. The first one is the bold move. The one that changes everything.

iBooks is shit. I know it. Steve Jobs knows it.

ePub is shit. I know it. Steve Jobs knows it.

What we’ve seen is not Apple’s final word in regard to electronic books.

This blog gets killed this weekend, so I’ll be on the sidelines, working on my own stuff, preparing for what I think is coming up.

This isn’t over.

But this blog soon will be.

8 Responses to Apple And eBooks: A Horror Story

  1. Fran Toolan says:

    Mike, I believe you are correct about much of this, but I don’t think you are paying attention to economics.

    1. books are transactions to Apple. Apple is about making the buying experience as easy as possible, not making the reading experience as enjoyable as possible. iPad is a razor, books are blades.
    2. getting files in ePub means faster supply from publishers and lower costs for Apple
    3. giving books their own app means that he can bring an entire industry on board in one fell swoop
    4. in highlighting iBooks, he positions the iPad to be in competition with other eReaders where he wins hands down on price. if he didn’t do this, he’d have to position himself in his own market, and people would focus on what it doesn’t do.
    5. his built in market of evangelists will buy this product over others regardless of price.

    • mikecane says:

      I don’t disagree with any of that. It’s obvious, which is why I didn’t write it. I’m just pissed there doesn’t seem to be the next step. I’m probably just impatient and it will still happen. Just not nearly as fast as I’d like — as usual. Well, at least that gives me more time to prepare, so I should just STFU about it.

  2. Chris says:

    Best blog ever. Don’t stop!

  3. Rubels Esosi says:

    I was looking in this blog to find why you hate ebooks? Also do you not like the way iBooks looks? Is it the layout? I would like to know what is the basis for your hatred.

  4. Toke says:

    I have been following your blog for quite a while. I must first say I regret its announced disappearence.

    I wonder what you have against the ePub format as such? I know it has weak areas. But. Its based on HTML. As a standard it will evolve. Surely Apple will be quite a force behind ePub if they choose to really push that format forward. If not, they will probably already add DRM to it, and why not go further and add additional Apple layer of goodness to it?

    It would hurt the nice efforts behind the standards work that has been done in the IDPF, but it would have more of a chance of becoming a standard than the current ePub.

  5. robinson says:

    Yeah, agree–why the vitriol? The 4-letter diatribes are unseemly and detract from your argument.

    It would have been better to have explained what the probs are with ePub and to have reported a bit on the origins of iBooks (perhaps Kobo?).

    I like the retro bookshelf look… Apple was going for the look of real world objects in several of its redesigned apps. I just wonder if one has many books if you can stack them or organize them as in a real bookshelf?!

    • mikecane says:

      Did you even bother to click on any of the links to see for yourself the posts about why ePub is a stinking pile of shit unworthy of consideration by Apple and everyday people?

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mike Cane and Mike Cane, Lucas Wilk. Lucas Wilk said: RT @mikecane: NEW POST: Apple And eBooks: A Horror Story @jafurtado @jane_l @Booksquare @DonLinn […]

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