I’m currently reading the ‘enhanced edition’ of James Gleick’s Chaos: The Making of a New Science. This is version of the popular science classic that, basically, has had some videos stuck in it. This is the first, which serves as an introduction:
As you can see, it’s very nicely done. I’ll talk about it properly once I’ve finished reading it, but for now I’ll just say that its a great book and one that lends itself well to added video content.
But if the product is sound, how commercially successful has it been? Chaos: The Enhanced Edition is only available through Apple’s iBookstore (as opposed to the App Store, where most books mentioned on this blog come from). It was released back in March, and I can remember a lot of coverage on blogs like Boing Boing at the time, so it was promoted reasonably well. I do not have access to any sales figures, but looking at the iBooks it still hasn’t been rated by anyone, let alone reviewed, which doesn’t imply the sort of success that it deserves. The non-enhanced version – the regular ebook – does have a review, and there are many, many reviews of the (non-enhanced) Kindle version over at Amazon.
Gaining any non-agenda data about iBookstore sales is a bit of challenge. There is the suspicion, though, that a sizeable proportion of those who read on iPads read Kindle books rather than buy iBooks. The reading experience of iBooks is good, but ultimately the smaller range and higher prices of the iBookstore has sent people to Kindle – along with, I suspect, a sense that Kindle books are more future proof and will remain accessible from more devices. Apple are ultimately more of a “you must do it our way” company than Amazon. It may well be that there is – and there will remain – noticeable less ‘footfall’ in the iBookstore than the App store.
That said, there is a noticeable pricing issue here. The enhanced version, with the video, is £11.99. Next to it in the iBookstore is the non-enhanced version at £6.99. Meanwhile, Amazon will sell it to you in Kindle format for £6.50 and in paperback for £6.84. The video enhancements, then, nearly double the cost.
So The Enhanced Edition has been priced – relative to the non-enhanced version – as a premium product. Looking at the high prices of audiobooks implies that there is an audience of book-lovers who will pay premium prices – the audiobook for the last Harry Potter, for example, cost 75 quid. But tablet books are not a nicely-packaged physical product. They are digital. And all implications are that there is a psychological issue about paying premium prices for digital content. It may well be that the price of Chaos: The Enhanced Edition is a real problem.
The thing is though, £12.99 isn’t that much for a book. Most readers will have spent that for a physical book, and thought nothing of it. For a good book that gives 40+ hours of pleasure, it’s a bargain.
But if £12.99 does prove too much for a tablet book, or if iBooks-only availabilty does prove to be limiting, then the budget for producing them is going to be a real issue.