Looking at the Hot Sheet last month here at The New Publishing Standard, I singled out Jane Friedman and Porter Anderson’s pessimistic view of the future of Apple’s iBooks:
The Hot Sheet quotes Canadian commentator Thad McIlroy as saying when it comes to ebooks B&N and Apple “have both announced defeat,” but adds the caveat that while McIlroy may be right about Apple, we should “keep in mind the big picture: Apple’s combined digital media sales are currently bigger than Amazon’s combined digital media sales. And Apple is projecting to double the size of their services business by 2020, so don’t count them out just yet.
Sadly at the Fourth Quarter Fiscal Year 2017 Earnings Release Conference Call there was little to suggest Apple was serious about iBooks.
This was our biggest year ever in most parts of the world with all-time record revenue in the United States, Western Europe, Japan, Korea, the Middle East, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe and Asia … We generated revenue growth across all of our product categories and showed all-time record results for our Services business … The launch of iPhone X is now underway as stores open across Australia and Asia.
Well, any growth in Africa, the Middle East or Asia (other than China and Japan) didn’t happen with iBooks because there are no iBooks stores for these regions.
iBooks is caught up in the cluster known as ‘Services.’ Cook again:
Turning to Services. Revenue reached an all-time quarterly record of $8.5 billion in the September quarter. A few quarters ago, we established a goal of doubling our fiscal 2016 services revenue of $24 billion by the year 2020, and we are well on our way to meeting that goal. In fiscal 2017, we reached $30 billion, making our Services business already the size of a Fortune 100 company.
Yeah, but what about iBooks?
Apple’s Luca Maestri:
Across all of our Services offerings, the number of paid subscriptions reached over 210 million at the end of September quarter, an increase of 25 million in the last 90 days.
While other ‘services’ – Apple Music, Apple TC, the iCloud – get called out, iBooks just isn’t mentioned. So maybe Thad McIlroy is right.
But hold on. Back to Luca Maestri:
You remember that a few years ago, we were actually declining in Music; now with the streaming service in addition to the download business, the business is growing again.
And that is probably about as much as we can hope for. That iBooks isn’t turning in an outstanding performance, so isn’t getting any mentions, and it may be iBooks is declining a little, but that doesn’t mean Apple is pulling the plug.
Worth bearing in mind too that most Amazon earnings calls do not single out the Kindle store for mention.
No news is not necessarily bad news.
The future of the Apple iBooks store may not be bright, but that doesn’t mean it’s bleak.