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According to reports circulating on Monday, Apple (AAPL) could be hosting a special media event in New York this month. It won’t be about Apple’s next iPad, if reports are correct. The company will be talking directly to the publishing industry—and the time is ripe for just such a discussion.
After an initial report from AllThingsD introduced the possibility of the event, while also stressing that nothing fun like the iPad 3 or an Apple iTV would be discussed, TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis says the site confirmed with its own source that the subject at the New York event will be publishing and e-books. Considering that reports indicate Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue will be prominently involved, it’s a focus area that makes a lot of sense.
Cue is in charge of the iBookstore, as well as the iTunes and App Stores, iAd, and iCloud. He’s the one who took the stage the last time Apple had a publishing-specific event, when it unveiled The Daily from News Corp. (NWS) Apple used the opportunity to highlight the introduction of in-app subscriptions, which allowed publishers to provide digital subscriptions on a recurring basis for their in-app periodical content in exchange for a 30 percent cut of revenue for Apple.
Despite The Daily‘s lukewarm reception, in-app subscriptions have been a hit for Apple and publishers alike. Condé Nast reported that its subscriptions skyrocketed following the feature’s introduction. More recently, Popular Science revealed a healthy growth spurt, once it switched to using in-app subs.
This early success is about to face its first big challenge, now that Amazon (AMZN) is essentially launching a full-court press with its own digital periodical offerings, alongside its introduction of the Kindle Fire. Recently, Amazon updated its iOS app to be able to access the digital magazine subscriptions on offer for its new Android-based tablet, giving it the cross-platform appeal that keeps the Kindle bookstore ahead of Apple’s own iBookstore.
Apple may be taking steps to arm itself against this effort from Amazon by improving its publishing platform. One such improvement could be opening up a new digital self-publishing platform, according to sources talking to Good e-Reader. That would allow Apple to compete with similar offerings from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble (BKS), giving it the ability to negotiate directly with independent authors for exclusive publishing rights. If Apple can convince some big names to go iOS-only, it might provide a kick in the pants for iBooks’ lackluster sales performance.
Apple’s publishing efforts—and iBooks in particular—need invigoration in the face of competition. A targeted media event in January would be a good way for Apple to call attention to any new features it plans to introduce in order to raise the profile of its attempts to compete with other platforms. The introduction of The Daily last year may not have been that exciting from a consumer standpoint, but it ensured that everyone knew all about in-app subscriptions in advance of the feature’s launch. Expect a similar industry-targeted feature-evangelizing event, should Apple proceed to hold one late this month.
Also from GigaOM:
Forecast: The Evolution of the E-book Market (subscription required)