Apple is renaming and redesigning its iBooks e-book app with a simplified storefront and other updated features in an apparent effort to give the retail e-book market it had yielded to Amazon another go, according to a Bloomberg report.
The report also stated that Apple has hired an executive away from Amazon to lead the renewed commitment to the updated app, which will now be called "Books." That executive, Kashif Zafar, had been a senior vice president with Amazon's Audible audiobooks business.
The renewed commitment to e-book sales comes almost two years after the U.S. Supreme Court ended Apple's effort to challenge a court ruling that it had conspired with book publishers to keep e-book prices elevated, a decision that resulted in a $450 million fine for Apple.
Could it be that the quaint, old-fashioned book-selling business is the nut that a pack of e-commerce squirrels are still falling all over themselves to crack? Apple isn't the only company that has decided to chase Amazon down this path again. This news surfaced just as Walmart committed to selling an e-book reader, along with millions of e-book titles, as part of the retail giant's new alliance with Rakuten. Google is also reportedly making a run at the audiobooks market.
Apple's renaming of iBooks as Books is pretty much in sync with how it refers to other apps – Messages, instead of iMessages, for example. The redesign of the app is interesting in that Apple had left it alone for years as it frequently updated other software, apps and devices, including a recent upgrade of its app store. So, what makes books so important again, not just to Apple, but also to Walmart, Google and, of course, Amazon?
E-books and audiobooks are just one small aspect of another much more vast market that Amazon has succeeded in to a greater degree than those other giants — content. Apple is trying to change that, according to the Bloomberg report, and the company is on a mission to earn $50 billion from services, including content like movies, TV shows, music, and e-books and audiobooks, by 2021.
Truth be told this battle will play out somewhere in the shadows of the evolving war between the virtual assistants of Amazon, Apple and others, but the e-nook market is still one where Apple has its work cut out for it. Amazon's share of the U.S. market has grown nine percentage points to 83% in the last year and a half or so, while Apple's slice has shrunk from 11% to 9%, according to AuthorEarnings figures quoted by Bloomberg.
Do Apple, Walmart and Google have a chance to topple Amazon in e-book and audiobook sales? It seems unlikely at this point, but with their new efforts, they could at least earn a somewhat larger piece of the market pie.