The start of official book sales sold on Apple's range of iDevices was delayed in Australia until today, perhaps by publishers wanting a better cut from Apple, and perhaps to give more time to competing ebook readers such as the Kindle some time to establish themselves first and act as competition to what has been the so far unstoppable iPad and iDevice phenomenon.
Whatever the reason, and they are no doubt many and varied, content deals outside the US take a long time to be set up, and the missing piece of the iDevice app store puzzle in Australia has been books.
Yes, a range of competing ebook readers has been available for iDevices, from Amazon's own Kindle software onwards, but in Australia, the iBookstore was limited to out-of-copyright classics from Jules Verne, Charles Dickens and many other literary greats.
End-users can import their own PDF files to read in iBooks but most eBooks aren't legally available in that format, so a part of Apple's own store offerings was missing, one that would legally provide access to a wide and growing range of books through a user's existing iTunes account.
Today, that all changes, with a range of deals finally done to bring 'thousands of titles from both major and independent publishers, including Macmillan, Hatchette Book Group, Hardie Grant, HarperCollins Publishers, Murdoch Publishers and Wiley' to Apple's Australian iBookstore at last.
Apple says that there are 'titles from a range of categories, including Biography, Business & Economics, Children's & Young Adult, Crime & Thrillers and much [more]', and naturally, encourages its users to buy, saying 'it's a great time to start building your library.'
Among Wiley's titles are My Dad's Got Mojo, The Power of Influence, Money Makeover and The Profit Principle, with each 'aimed at busy professionals wanting information on the go.'
Wiley promises a 'range of their global best-sellers across categories such as technology, travel, cooking, parenting, plus much more.'
Continued on page two, please read on!
Hachette says that books from many of its imprints, and others, will be available from the Apple iBookstore on, or shortly after, launch date, and that: 'In future, all newly published books will be available simultaneously with the publication of their printed equivalent, and Hachette will progressively add more previously published titles, as they go through the process of digitisation.'
'We are absolutely delighted that so many of our books will be available on the Australian iBookstore, as we are committed to ensuring readers can enjoy the very best writing whenever, and however, they want to buy and read it.'
Murdoch Books says the brand new autobiography of Australian television entrepreneur Reg Grundy is one of the titles it's making available on the iBookstore.
Other titles include the illustrated cookbook Meals in Heels, Vampires: A bite-sized history, Full Circle, The Australian Book of True Crime, Bad Ground: Inside the Beaconsfield Mine Rescue, When She Was Bad, The Lonely Sea, and Journey to Tobruk: John Murray - Bushman, Soldier, Survivor.
Meanwhile, HarperCollins says thousands of its titles are now available on the iBookstore, saying that the "full e-book catalogue of HarperCollins' local and international titles will be available through the iBookstore, including Australian titles such as Colleen McCullough's Naked Cruelty, Rebecca Lim's Mercy and A Simpler Time by Peter FitzSimons", with international authors including Cathy Kelly and Russell Brand also to be available.
The CEO of HarperCollins Australia, Michael Moynahan said: 'Having HarperCollins' e-books available in Apple's iBookstore when it launches represents a significant opportunity for the Australian consumer to get further access to a fantastic array of books.
"The popularity of the iPad and the iBookstore in the US and the UK indicates that the market available to Australian authors through this platform will be significant here in Australia and also contribute to the accessibility of our authors in these markets."
However, as Andrew Colley's article in The Australian explains, not all publishers are yet represented, and some aren't happy.
Given the time it has taken to launch at all, it's clear that current and future publishers will want to include as many books as possible for users to legally buy, and even though it means sharing a cut with Apple, because it's much better than losing sales entirely to piracy, while cultivating as many ebook channels as possible to try and dilute the power of large individual players like Apple and Amazon.
So, although the ebook revolution has been going on for quite some time now in Australia on various ebook readers, smartphones and the iPad itself, the official entrÃ©e of Apple into the Australian ebook market with a retail iBookstore should mean many more iDevices being used as book readers in addition to all the other many and varied tasks they perform for users today, with sales of ebooks in Australia clearly set to increase, potentially dramatically.
If you have a qualifying iDevice, iBookstore is available through Apple's free iBooks app.