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ALLi Watchdog: Amazon vs Apple

Photo of Giacomo and his dog

ALLi Watchdog and his dog

In this month’s ALLi Watchdog post, the indefatigable Giacomo Giammatteo compares Apple with Amazon. Read on to let him help you decide whether you should be trying to get your bite of the Apple,…

Amazon Vs Apple

Everyone knows that Amazon sells more books than Apple, but it’s becoming obvious that Apple has moved past B&N into the number two position, and Apple is continuing to grow. According to iBooks Store Director Keith Moerer, addressing publishers at Digital Book World 2015, Apple’s ebook businesses is gaining 1 million new customers every week. That’s a lot of new readers.

If you’re an #author, and your books aren’t sold through Apple, rethink your strategy. Click To Tweet

If you’re an author, and your books aren’t being sold through Apple, you need to rethink your strategy. Of course, that would mean you’d have to abandon Kindle Select as Amazon demands exclusivity if an author is in Select. And that brings up a question many authors ask.

Should You Be Exclusive On Amazon?

I’ve never been a big fan of Amazon’s exclusivity clause. I also haven’t been a fan of the way that Amazon treats authors in relation to how other companies treat authors.

But let’s leave exclusivity aside for the moment, and focus on…

Who Is The Best eBook Retailer For Authors

The answer to the question of who is the best eBook retailer is more complicated than it might appear. Amazon sells the most books. We all know that. And in an article last March regarding which eBook retailer is number two, Jeremy Greenfield from Digital Book World had this to say.

I wish I could give you a clear answer, but after nearly a month of investigation into whether Apple or Barnes & Noble is now the second-largest ebook retailer in the US, this is the best I have: It depends.

I think with developments we’ve seen in the last half of 2014, Apple has secured the number two spot, but let’s move off the sales topic and focus on other issues.

I hear a lot of complaints about Apple, most of them having to do with how difficult they are to deal with, or how strict they are about accepting material, or how you need a Mac to submit a book. All of that is true—to an extent. But none of that has much to do with the long term.

Even if it takes you two weeks to upload a book—what’s two weeks when your book will be there for years, theoretically, forever. And yes, Apple can be strict about what material they accept, but I’m convinced that’s better for indie authors in the long run. As to needing a Mac… I wish it wasn’t so, but it is. That leaves you with a few choices, the easiest of which is using a good distributor, which isn’t a bad idea anyway.

But Who Treats Authors Best?

With Amazon firmly situated at the top spot for sales and Apple in control of the second position, I thought it was time to compare how the two stacked up regarding their treatment of authors.

Comparing Apple and Amazon

Feature amazon apple
Categories 2 3
Commission 99c–2.98 35 70
Commissions 2.99–9.99 70 70
Commissions 10+ 35 70
Commissions Int’l[1] 35 70
Coupons X
Delivery charges 15c per megabyte up to 2 Gig free
Exclusivity required for some benefits X
File types .mobi epub
Free books w/Select 5 days per quarter anytime
Free books w/o Select X anytime
Payment terms 60 days 32 days
Price matching enforced X
Pricing internationally some control complete control
Reach globally 12 territories 51 countries
Sales reporting updated every few hours daily
Scheduling promotions with Select anytime
Series manager tool X
Uploading easy need a Mac

Now Let’s Dig A Little Deeper

Categories

Amazon lets authors select two categories for books, although they do restrict some of the categories and won’t let you choose them. Apple allows you to select three categories, with no restrictions.

Commissions

Notice I said commissions—technically, these are not royalties. The process is complicated here, but only on Amazon’s side. The chart lists it, but here are the details and some additional information.

Amazon

  • If your book is priced between 99c and $2.98, you are paid a 35% commission.
  • If it is priced between $2.99 and 9.99, you are paid 70%.
  • If it is priced at $10 or more, you are paid 35%.
  • If you are not in Select (Amazon’s exclusive program) you will be paid 35% in the following countries:
    • Brazil
    • India
    • Japan
    • Mexico
  • If that wasn’t complicated enough, Amazon also charges a delivery fee if your book falls into the 70% commission range.

Apple

– You receive 70% no matter what price or where it’s sold.

Note About Commissions

Before Apple entered the scene, Amazon paid indie authors 35% across the board. It wasn’t until it became obvious that Apple was coming out with an iPad that Amazon said…

“Holy shit, I better pay these guys more.” (My words, not Amazon’s.)

And so they raised the royalties to 70%, which was not much of a surprise as that is the percentage Apple was paying musicians and app developers.

Note About International Sales (Brazil, India, Japan, Mexico)

Before you go thinking—I’m not worried about those countries, I don’t sell anything there—think again. India is the second largest English-speaking country in the world with about 130 million people. Add another 40 million from the other three countries and you’re looking at a population of English-speaking readers about half that of the US.

The reason you’re probably not selling anything there is because you’re not marketing there. It’s not a coincidence that Amazon recently borrowed $2 billion to invest in their infrastructure in India. Think about that—if Amazon considers that India warrants a $2 billion investment, shouldn’t you invest a little time for your own future in India?

Here’s an article from the Wall Street Journal about it.

The point is, Amazon already has indie authors thinking that India, Mexico, Brazil, and Japan are worth nothing. They are insignificant. Who cares if we’re paid 35% instead of 70%? By the time the markets explode there, it will be too late.

Don’t let Amazon fool you. We should be fighting for our 70% rights now.

Coupons

Apple provides coupons to give out to customers, bloggers, reviewers. It’s a nice touch and easy to use.
Amazon does not.

Delivery Charges

This is one of those things that—when first looked at—seems like nothing. But the more you analyze the cost, it becomes apparent how serious it is. (Amazon only charges you if you are in the 70% commission plan.)

My charges for normal mystery books average 10–12c per book. On a book priced at $2.99 that reduces your earnings from $2.10 to about $2.00. That represents an effective cut of about 4%. So in reality, you’re getting 66% instead of 70%.

The actual charges amount to 15c per megabyte. This could get serious if you have a 10-meg file and are selling your book for $4.99. Instead of receiving $3.50, you’d get $2.00. That’s taking your commission from 70% to 40%. A huge cut in commissions.

This is so important, I want to spend a moment on it. If you’re a typical novelist and your book is primarily text it won’t affect you much. Maybe the 3–4% I cited above; however, if you produce cookbooks, illustrated books, non-fiction books heavy with charts, tables, graphs, and images—then these delivery charges mean a lot.

Take a look at this example.

Megabytes Cost of Book Apple Pays Amazon Pays Apple Percentage Amazon Percentage
1 meg 4.99 $3.50 $3.35 70% 67%
5 meg 4.99 $3.50 $2.75 70% 55%
10 meg 4.99 $3.50 $2.00 70% 40%

Before you go thinking…“A 10meg file is a lot…” consider that many of the cookbooks run from 20 – 50 meg or more. The screenshot below is from The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook, and it weighs in at a whopping 90meg! Of course, at that size it has to be priced much higher, so it falls into the 35% commission range, which means Amazon doesn’t charge a delivery fee—but Amazon now keeps 65% of sales.

This book lists at a Kindle price of $29.95, which means Amazon rakes in $19.47 per book! If an indie author produced this book, they would only receive $10.48 per book. Of course, Amazon had it discounted to $21.78, but that doesn’t come close to matching Nook’s price on the same book: $16.49.

Why doesn’t Amazon match the price?
I’m not sure. Maybe they haven’t noticed …. ….. ….. Now that I’ve finished laughing, let’s speculate on the real reason.

If you are in the 35% commission zone (or if you’re with a major publisher) Amazon pays you commission on the list price—not the matched price. In this case, that means that Amazon is paying this publisher $10.48 per book[2] even though they discounted the price to $21.78. If they went so far as to match Nook’s price of $16.49, they would still have to pay the $10.48, which would still leave Amazon a healthy profit…but they don’t want to do that. Not all the time.

This brings up a question though—if Amazon is so keen to give their readers lower prices, why not do it with these high-priced books? They certainly have the margins to work with.

No matter. We’re not going to delve into that today. That’s a topic for a future post. For now, let’s move on to exclusivity.

One thing to note before we move on—if you had that same cookbook on Apple and priced it at $29.95, your commission would be $20.96.

Exclusivity

  • Amazon demands exclusivity if you want to participate in the Lending Library, Kindle Unlimited, or Kindle Select, which allows you to give books away free for five days per quarter. Select also pays equal commissions in Brazil, India, Japan, and Mexico.
  • Apple has no exclusivity.

File Types

Amazon uses .mobi files and Apple uses ePub.

Free Books

  • As noted above, with Amazon you must be in the Select program in order to give books free and even then it’s limited to five days per quarter.
  • With Apple, you can give books free at any time.

Payment Terms

Amazon pays 60 days after the end of each month, while Apple pays 32 days after the end of each month.

Price Matching

  • Amazon insists on having the lowest price, no matter where your book is sold. It will typically price match if they find it at a lower price elsewhere, but they can take other actions, such as removing your book from KDP.
  • Apple has no such requirements.

This is a big concern for me. I don’t want anyone dictating the price I set for my books. Suppose I want to offer Apple readers a special deal on the anniversary of the launch of the iPad, or do the same for Nook readers when a new reader comes out. The problem is that Amazon won’t allow it.

Pricing Internationally

With Amazon, there is some control over how you price your books on the international front, but with Apple there is complete control. This can be a big factor if your strategy is to use price to break into a new market. With Apple you have 51 countries where you can adjust price individually, and even put the price in the local currency. I’ve included a piece from another article I wrote for the Alliance of Independent Authors.

Territory Pricing

If you don’t immediately grasp the significance of territory pricing, let me provide some detail. One of the biggest problems with selling internationally is the high cost of books in other countries related to the cost of books in the US. We might be able to sell a solid mystery or fantasy for $5.99, but take that price to Mexico, Brazil, or India, and your book will likely sit on the virtual shelf forever.

We have had the ability to manage prices individually as long as we went direct to the retailer. As an example, on Apple’s iBooks I price differently for many of the 51 countries they offer. So I sell for $5.99 in the US, $3.99 in the UK, and 99c in many countries like India, Japan, Mexico, etc. (You can also set prices according to local currency which makes it nicer, too.)

Here’s a quick chart to show you how you could set prices.

Currency Price
US Dollar $5.99
UK Pound Sterling £1.99
Brazilian Real R$.99
Mexican Peso $4.99
Euro €2.99
Chinese Yuan ¥12.99

The currency shown above might not mean much to you if you’re not familiar with the rates, but the table below shows what it would look like if you simply let an app automatically adjust price to other currency.[3]

Currency Price
US Dollar $5.99
UK Pound Sterling £3.83
Brazilian Real R$15.57
Mexican Peso $92.00
Euro €4.85
Chinese Yuan ¥36.95

As you can see, this pricing strategy is offering discounts to other countries and offering them in the countries’ own currency. And don’t forget that Amazon often charges a surcharge of up to $2.00 per book or more in some countries, making our books unaffordable.

Global Reach

  • With Amazon you can sell your book in 12 different territories.
  • Apple has 51 countries.

Sales Reporting

  • Amazon is updated every few hours.
  • Apple is updated daily.

Scheduling Promotions

  • Amazon allows you to schedule Countdown promotions if you’re in Select.
  • Apple allows you to schedule promotions any time for various countries.

Uploading

  • Amazon is very easy. You can upload your file in minutes.
  • Apple is much more time consuming, and, you need access to a Mac.

This is a big drawback for Apple, and a feature I wish they would change.

Bottom Line

It’s time for the final analysis—who is the best retailer for ebooks?

Forget that you make more sales on Amazon, which I’m sure most of you do. Forget everything anyone ever told you and put a blindfold on your emotions. Look at the cold hard facts.

Apple treats authors fairly. All authors.

There’s no question in my mind who the best retailer is. I may not sell as many books with Apple—yet—but it’s a whole lot more fun working with them. And I’d much rather work with a true partner…so I’ll be rooting for Apple to continue to gain market share and provide more competition.

My Predictions

I believe that Apple will continue to increase market share for iBooks worldwide in 2015. I think people have underestimated the impact of two simple things regarding iBook sales:

  1. Apple pre-installing ibooks on all devices running the newer OS.
  2. The new, bigger phones.

My daughter-in-law and two of my other friends have now switched from reading on a Kindle app to reading almost exclusively on their new iPhone 6+. Remember, the vast majority of Kindle readers don’t actually own a Kindle, they read Kindle books on other devices. And Apple has hundreds of million of devices in use. A lot of the new iPhone purchases are by people new to Apple, and they are coming into the Apple ecosystem with iBooks pre-installed, so if they want to read books—it’s not a stretch to think they’ll opt for iBooks.

Combine that with the fact that a lot of authors are finally recognizing that Apple is worth considering as a retail channel, and you have the makings of a perfect storm. A larger selection of books/authors, draws more readers, and more readers draw even more authors. Apple also has a much stronger international presence, and, as noted above, far better terms for authors.

Apple/iBooks will be the one to watch in 2015.

BTW: Here is a link to all of my books on Apple, and Amazon. And B&N and Kobo and Google.

Easy Tweet

The results are in... #selfpub watchdog report: Amazon vs Apple - buff.ly/1EL4AYR Click To Tweet

  1. Brazil, Mexico, Japan, India if not in Select  ↩
  2. for argument’s sake I kept it at 35%. That is the indie-author price.  ↩
  3. based on a $5.99 US price.  ↩

80 Responses to ALLi Watchdog: Amazon vs Apple

  1. Shreya June 27, 2016 at 6:51 pm #

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Rachael Shaw August 20, 2016 at 6:14 am #

      Any update to this article for 2016 audiences? Any changes? Thank you!!

  2. Shreya June 27, 2016 at 6:51 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  3. Carol June 27, 2016 at 5:11 pm #

    Thank you for taking the time to share this very informative piece. Appreciate it.

  4. SB June 26, 2016 at 9:49 pm #

    This is really interesting. Thanks for all the info. I’m afraid Apple’s requirement that you have a Mac to upload is a dealbreaker for me. I hate using Macs. I’m certainly not going to buy one just for this, nor do I even want to borrow one for it. So looks like I won’t be self publishing through ibooks anytime soon. Maybe if they remove that restriction…

    • Giacomo Giammatteo August 14, 2016 at 6:39 pm #

      You can still accomplish the same result using Smashwords or Draft2Digital as a distributor. Your ‘commission’ will drop from 70 percent to 60, but everything else is the same.

  5. Ricardo April 6, 2016 at 9:05 pm #

    Thanks for this excellent comparison between the two eBook stores. I’m planning to publish an eBook in the near future, so I’m researching the alternatives I have to do this. From what I read here, Apple seems to be more fair than Amazon with the commissions. I would definitely choose to sacrifice the exclusivity benefits on Amazon in order to be able to publish in both stores, as well as anywhere else I want to.

  6. Anne Kowalewski Maloney March 27, 2016 at 3:05 am #

    Hi, Jimmy: I just wrote you an email re indie publishing and then saw this! I will read it and digest it. Thanks!

  7. Cheryl V February 11, 2016 at 7:56 pm #

    Thank you for a very interesting and informing article!

  8. Amit November 25, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    Hi Giacomo,

    Great article. Thank you for simplifying this.

    I am trying to manage sales for my wife’s book…currently listed on Amazon for 70%. We are struggling to figure out how we get paid for thousands of pages read on the lending library….but from what i read, so are all the other authors out there.

    We are based in India and currently iBooks has not launched paid books here. Most of our sales on are on Amazon US though.

    But now we are going to try selling on iBooks and switch to 35% on Amazon. Will keep you posted on our experience.

    Cheers,

    Amit

  9. STEVE CHAPPLE November 19, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    great article!
    big questions:
    1) i have a book in spanish from a major publisher, my rights now, so should I do Amazon exclusively to get the 70% in Mexico & Brazil or not, since you say I cannot set my own Mexican and Brazil price w Amazon, only Apple?
    This is a tricky if not contradictory position, is it not?
    2) same with other books of mine that might sell in India and Mexico, esp, and also Brazil. Amazon or Apple?
    3) I don’t understand the FREE thing. If I make a book free for a while, do I still get royalties on it from Amazon for all copies freely downloaded or freely borrowed?
    Much Thanks, Mr. G and others-
    Steve
    La Jolla, Calif.

    • Giacomo Giammatteo August 14, 2016 at 6:49 pm #

      Sorry for such a unforgivably slow reply, but I was out all of last year and early this year. I had two heart attacks and two strokes. Anyway, you can set the price via Amazon, but it may be ’rounded’ up in Mexico and Brazil based on exchange rates. with Apple, you can use local currency.

      As to free, if you offer a book free, no one pays you for it.

  10. Cheryl September 24, 2015 at 1:13 am #

    Once again, an article claiming how important India and other nations are to your sales leaves out the most important fact: are the citizens of said country readers? In Mexico, they are not. Unless it’s the bible, your book isn’t going to sell lots of copies. Which brings up the question of whether or not Indians are readers. Just because it’s the 2nd most populated country on the planet doesn’t mean sales will be high. If they don’t read, few ereaders will be bought. Less ebooks will be too.

    • Shreya June 27, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

      Yes, they do read, Cheryl. I am an Indian, and ebooks are my salvation. Books of genres like Urban Fantasy and Science fiction rate at ₹2000 and above ( that’s paperback) in my country stores and with a app like moon reader on your smartphone, you can access the same book for ₹500. Consider the savings! So, we read a lot of ebooks. In fact, without ebooks, we won’t be able to read international books at all.

      And Giacomo: I’ll truly appreciate if apple lifted their restriction from Mac. Authors don’t like to be mistreated, and they are on Amazon. I’ll like to publish on Apple, but as of now, I don’t have any intention of buying a Mac just to publish on apple.

      • Giacomo Giammatteo August 14, 2016 at 6:52 pm #

        I just answered another author with the same question. Yes, I know it’s silly to require a MAC, but you can still publish with them using Smashwords or Draft2Digital.

  11. Juliet August 13, 2015 at 3:31 am #

    This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something that helped me.
    Thanks a lot!

  12. B. Duncan McKinlay July 4, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

    Giacomo: allow me to add my voice to the chorus of appreciation and gratitude for your article, sir. A most validating read, given that much of what you (and many of your readers ) had to say summarized the many hours of online research I did before also concluding that an, “Apple First” policy seemed wise.

    Question: to take Michael Perry’s excellent post one step further, and given Tim Cook’s recent announcement that Apple Music would be made available on the Android platform, do you have any thoughts on how likely Apple is to also make the iBooks app cross-platform? To me, the logic for doing so parallels that of Apple Music (e.g. to increase market-share, to introduce non-Apple users to the Apple experience).

    Thank you most kindly!

    • Giacomo Giammatteo August 14, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

      I would love to know, and like you, i think they should, but considering Google Books is making a stronger push I don’t know if it will happen. Like with all things, Apple is mum. We’ll have to wait and see.

  13. Katie Krimitsos June 7, 2015 at 6:42 pm #

    Great article! Thank you so much!

    This may be an ignorant question, but does Amazon’s exclusivity clause mean that I can’t publish anywhere else? That I can’t publish with Apple too?

    Thanks!

    • Stunami May 20, 2016 at 10:28 pm #

      yes; hence the meaning of the word “exclusivity”.

    • Giacomo Giammatteo August 14, 2016 at 6:56 pm #

      There is no ignorant question. And yes, Amazon’s exclusivity requirement means just that. It means you can’t even sell from your own website.

  14. peter c May 17, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    I was interested in this article until you stated India’s population is smaller than the US. It’s not. So how many other “facts” are wrong?

  15. Dempsey Books April 28, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

    I really enjoyed and learned a lot from this article. Rob C’s comment should be our mantra for today. He said that iBooks provides a “modern reading experience.” He refers to the ability in iBooks, lacking with Amazon, to put in video links and other links within the ebook, and how an ipad seems to display better quality color illustrations.
    But it’s that idea — a modern reading experience — and how shall we define it from the reader side, the author side, and the publisher side.

  16. Gordon Owen @ iGO eBooks April 18, 2015 at 11:45 pm #

    Interesting take on the situation as someone who has gone from print publishing to e/i-publishing and been with Apple iBooks for about 4 years.

    I guess Amazon was never going to hold the entire monopoly (who had heard a Kobo at the millennium but who became the 2nd largest eBook outlet. As at about 2 years ago Apple was claiming 40% of the electronic book market. I first published with Apple iTunes Connect in about 2011. Was a challenging experience, (even with the registration process) – declined at first as you have to have an EIN number from the IRS.

    Having overcome this and then had problems with acceptance owing to submitting 3D covers which are unacceptable despite the capabilities of the iPad. .iba Format which has interesting induction into iBooks. Once registered the tools are made available, include formatted template to produce your contents. Including video and animation was yet another interesting skills set to develop. Pricing now is what you say but there was a string suggestion that a cartel type scenario existed and indeed the US Courts find Apple for this.

    Lessons hopefully learn the opportunities are boundless and worth considering. It was interested that Apple iBooks had a Team presence and table at the Indie Recon – (Indie Author) Conference – ALLi @ The Auditorium at Foyles where I had a extensive chat and despite iBooks being now a prominent part of Apple’s arsenal of products, it is the one and only product that it does not provide training for, (outside of material online), whereas for all other software in their range they provide regular training at their Apple Stores both around the UK and overseas.

    The fact that they made an appearance as a contingent at the conference seems to reinforce your overview of Apple’s attempt to increase their share in the market. If they get the support and customer care right for the iBooks as they do with other products then there is potentially a win-win situation and well worth indie authors considering widening the scope of their market.

  17. April L. Hamilton April 11, 2015 at 3:15 am #

    Could not possibly disagree more. Apple absolutely blows for selfpub authors.

    Takes for-freaking-ever to get through their first-pass review process, they very frequently fail a book without giving specifics (e.g., “doesn’t match our specification,” which could be anything from font size to line spacing to graphics file details). Even though you’ve gone down the iBooks checklist and verified every single spec requirement. When you try to reach someone there to *get* the specifics, that’s when the real fun begins.

    Their customer service/tech support is virtually non-existent and when you *can* get a human on the phone that person is not knowledgeable about the epub standard and can’t or won’t tell you what specific thing was wrong with your file. So you end up re-compiling and re-uploading and waiting weeks to months for a reply.

    If, by some miracle, you finally manage to get your book approved, they don’t bother to notify you in a timely manner. You just have to keep checking the store listings to see if it shows up.

    Finally, discoverability in the iBookstore is a joke. Unless you’re a bestselling author or one who’s being featured in some kind of promo, the only way anyone’s going to find your book in the iBookstore is via a direct link. I’ve published client books there, found them via a direct link, then tried searching by author name and book title and got bupkis.

    The iBookstore doesn’t have all the different category and genre lists Amazon and B&N and Smashwords do, nor do they have the very consumer-helpful “customers who bought this also bought” listings.

    I always tell anyone who asks my opinion not to bother with the iBookstore. It’s a huge, costly, time-consuming nightmare and even if you DO succeed, you’re not likely to ever sell enough copies there to justify whatever you had to pay in fees to an author services pro or hours of your own time and frustration.

    • Giacomo Giammatteo August 14, 2016 at 7:03 pm #

      It’s a shame you feel that way, April. Though as mentioned in several other comments, all you need to do is distribute through Smashwords or Draft2Digital and you would have no fuss. And the Apple sales channel is viable for many. I sell quite a few books there, and last year, I sold about 10,000 books. That’s not a lot, but it’s nothing to sneeze about.

      I find Apple refreshing to deal with compared to Amazon, who attempts to control authors and coerce them into exclusivity.

      As for my own books, the first 5 i published directly with Apple, after that I used a distributor.

  18. Michael W. Perry March 30, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

    Thanks for a marvelous comparison of Amazon and Apple. I’ll toss in some additional remarks:

    1. A ruling by the EU means that as of January 1, 2015, all EU member countries much charge their standard VAT (typically 15-25%) on ebook sales. A few countries such as France and Luxembourg were applying the discounted 3-5% print book VAT to ebooks. That had to end. The idea of differing VATs for print versus digital books is so absurd, it will probably be changed in the next year or two, but until that happens, authors need adapt.

    That matters because a VAT isn’t a sales tax. A sales tax is added to the retail price when an item is sold. A VAT is deliberately hidden inside the retail price. If you’ve got an ebook priced the equivalent of $3.99 in Euros, in some European countries, 25% of that price or about $1.00 goes to the government. The author and retailer then split the remaining $3 at their usual rates.

    In practice, that means that if an author wants to get the same per-sale income for an ebook sold in Europe as in the U.S., he must price it roughly 20% more and, given the fixed X.99 prices that retailers often demand, that typically means about 25% more.

    You can, of course, price your ebooks otherwise. But if you do so, you’re not winning the hearts and minds of Euro-readers. They still see that VAT-inflated price. In my case, I’ve raised prices about 25% to make apply my own microscopic pressure the the EU to end that VAT difference between print and digital books. Hopefully, I can drop those prices in the near future.

    2. The Amazon v. Apple distinction is built into their different business models.

    * Amazon makes its money from ebooks and sells its readers at or near cost. That means its incentive is to squeeze every penny it can out authors and publishers, hence those low royalties/commissions.

    * Apple makes its money on hardware given premium pricing. That’s why their software, including upgrades to OS X and iOS are free. That’s also why it pays creators 70% for apps, music and ebooks. A rich and healthy supply of those helps to sell its profitable hardware.

    3. The one glitch that’s holding back Apple’s ebook market growth is that money-from-hardware issue. It’s almost certainly making money from app, music, and ebook sales, just not as much as from iPhones etc. But even there, authors have reason to hope.

    The hope lies in an important distinction. Apps designed for OS X and iOS simply will not run on Windows machines or Android mobile devices. Apple has absolutely no reason to support the Android market.

    But ebooks are different. They’re far more like music than apps. Apple created an iTunes app for Windows so those with Windows computers who owned iPods or iPhones could buy music, manage it on Windows machines and play it on Apple devices.

    The same is true for ebooks. Some of those who’d buy an iPhone and get their ebooks from the iBookstore don’t do so because for work or other reasons they have Windows computers. They’re saying, “I’m going with Android mobile devices and Kindle ebooks because I can manage and read those ebooks with my Windows machine.”

    But if Apple simply ported iBooks to Windows, that argument would disappear. People who are not going to give up their Windows computer will then buy iPhones and ebooks from Apple. It’d a win for Apple. Note too that there’d be no reason for Apple to also port iBooks to Android devices. It never did that with iTunes music player and yet dominates the music market.

    4. There’s a solution to that Mac-only requirement for authors to upload ebooks if Apple would be willing to invest in it. That’d be to develop a platform-neutral, web-based interface for ebook uploads. It’s certainly doable. Amazon, Smashwords and others have just that. And given that Macs aren’t as common in other countries as they are in the U.S., it’s also attract more foreign authors and grow foreign sales. Maybe that’ll happen too.

    5. My suggest for authors, particularly authors fortunate enough to have an eager fan base, it to adopt an Apple first policy for the added income and flexibility. The steps would go like this.

    1. Release the iBooks version in epub.

    2. Begin publicizing the book.

    3. Perhaps release a similar epub version through Smashwords for B&N, Kobo etc.

    4. Then and only then begin to work on a version for Kindles. Amazon will accept an epub for conversion, so you might go that route. Otherwise, do what it takes to create the mobi and KF8 versions for Amazon. Don’t worry if that means a week or two delay. Remember, you want sales to go to Apple. Only bring out the Kindle version quickly enough to avoid upsetting Kindle diehards.

    Hope that helps!

  19. Anna Erishkigal March 30, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

    I’ve been distributing to Apple all along, but the problem is that it’s so darned hard to get any traction there.

    1. Most of the reader email-list advertisers cater to Amazon-only, and those few that do include Apple tend to be hard to get into.

    2. Even if you -do- throw money at them advertising exclusively to iOS system users (i.e. via Facebook ads), it’s a much lower conversion rate. I usually see the ‘echo’ on Amazon, not iBooks, even if I ONLY target iOS users and ONLY put in a direct link to iTunes.

    3. It’s -so- far to get all the way to the top to get visible there!!! Even if you -do- throw enough money at them to get a respectable amount of sales, it’s like shoveling excrement against the tide in that they have no sub-categories where you could get a little bit of visibility and then keep pulsing ads to stay there while you build a readership on their platform. You throw money at them. You make a few sales. And then the moment you kill the advertisement you drop like a rock. There are -NO- organic sales whatsoever. I can count out click-per-click each and every sale at iBooks, and with Facebook ads so expensive that means each sale cost me money.

    4. First one free gets you nowhere. See comment 3 above…

    Amazon built it’s global empire by using indie authors who are eager to find readers as their lost-leader, the supermarket $.19 cent bananas they advertise to get people into the supermarket. Only unlike Stop-and-Shop, Amazon isn’t the one paying for the bananas or the advertisements … -WE- are. All of their business strategies are geared towards getting traffic to their page so they can sell those customers other higher-margin products. And -WE- have advertised our hearts out, often spending 100% of our royalties one month to buy ads to stay visible the following month, just because they give us the carrot of those sub-sub-categories to get a few organic sales.

    If Apple wants to compete with Amazon, they need to reward us for sending our readers to their platform. All of my books have always been there, but I’ve gotten no traction with them whatsoever. Books that have sold thousands in a single month on Amazon have sold maybe, what, five, on iBooks even with targeted advertising? That has to change…

  20. Antara Man March 11, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    I don’t have a Mac or iPhone, can I hire someone on Fiverr to publish my works via their Mac? I don’t want to give my royalties to middleman like D2D or Smashwords. How is the Tax information on Apple and Kobo? Just like on KDP?

  21. Patti February 19, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

    Naive question: should you do both?

  22. David George Clarke February 11, 2015 at 4:05 am #

    Thanks for an excellent post, Giacomo, very helpful indeed. Following your instructions, I found it a simple enough job to set up my profile and then upload the first of my books. Since I’d already published my Rare Traits Trilogy on Amazon as both an ebook and paperback, I simply converted the full-formatted docx file to an epub file using Calibre and Apple accepted it immediately. One concern was the 1Mb/sec upload speed since mine is a little slower. However, it wasn’t a problem.
    I was also concerned since my Apple account is in Hong Kong where iBooks only offer the classics, which is very irritating – there are many people in HK who would love to buy through iBooks, so why the neglect? Having said that, access to music is relatively recent, so I live in hope that books will appear someday.
    My main question is over the territories. You mention both China and India in your post, but neither is in my list of 51 territories – I do have 51, I’ve counted! So do we have different lists or am I missing something? I’d certainly like to offer my books in both places, and at low prices, so I’d be grateful for any further insight here.
    Thanks again; this route into Apple is far better than the Smashwords route which took many weeks for the books to appear.

    • Giacomo Giammatteo February 14, 2015 at 4:13 pm #

      Hi, David. I mentioned India as one of the territories available through Amazon, and discussed percentages. To my knowledge, iBooks is not available in either country yet, but I’m sure that will happen soon, especially since device sales have been booming in China.

  23. Virginia Llorca February 11, 2015 at 2:07 am #

    Why do you say you need a Mac to put your ebook on Apple? Smashwords put mine on there.

    • Giacomo Giammatteo February 14, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

      Virginia, I should have clarified and said you cannot use a PC. I think I did mention that you could use a distributor, and if a person doesn’t have a Mac, that is my recommendation. Both Draft2Digital and Smashwords are excellent choices for getting books onto many platforms.

  24. TheSFReader February 10, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

    From an interoperability point of view, Amazon is slightly better :

    While the file format is mobi against epub (officially interoperable) for Apple, Amazon leaves the publisher the choice of dismissing DRM, while Apple mandates their own flavor of DRM for all ebooks AFAIK

  25. Marta February 9, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

    After reading your excellent article I posted this on my blog: http://www.hoyecomova.com/2015/02/looking-for-how-to-publish-alli.html

  26. Nick Brookland (Brooky) February 9, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

    Thank you for the interesting comparison. For my newly launched series of children’s books, creatively I am tempted to follow the Apple route. However Cassie Hayes (comment 7th Feb), has interesting points about reduced discoverability choosing this option. Therefore if I am to rely on the pro-active marketing of my website to obtain ebook sales, would I not be limiting such sales to those with ibook compatibility, or am I missing something?

    • Michael W. Perry March 30, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

      Keep in mind that Amazon’s “discoverability” is a zero-sum game. There’s only so much discoverability that Amazon can create without overwhelming customer eyeballs.

      Worst of all, Amazon has began to reveal hints that it intends to use its discoverability tools as a carrot and stick. Give it exclusivity, and you get more visibility—the carrot. Don’t give it exclusivity, and your books becomes almost invisible—the stick.

  27. TJ NUnes February 9, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

    Your comments about pricing for other countries really struck a chord. Of course, purchasing power is not the same, so why would I just convert from US dollars to the local currency? It might work on more well-to-do countries, such as UK and Canada, but it won’t work on poorer countries. It makes total sense, I just hadn’t thought about it.

    One problem I’m trying to solve with Amazon is that of VAT (I haven’t figured out how Apple deals with VAT, anyone knows?). Different European countries charge different VAT %s. The (potential) problem is that Amazon allows citizens of certain countries to shop in the marketplaces of other countries, and they will do price matching across these. So if I price a book lower on France (lower VAT), and higher on Germany (higher VAT), but Germans can by in France, then I’ll be selling at the France price to Germans. At least, that’s how I understand it (note that I am using France and Germany as lose examples: I can’t remember if those are two of the countries where cross-selling can occur).
    So I’ve decided to charge the same amount across all of Europe regardless of VAT. Partly because I’m not sure Europeans think of VAT of even realize at a conscious level that it is there.

    As for Apple and MACs, I prefer to own one. For about $200 I purchased a used one a few years ago from a college student that realized a PC was a better choice. I don’t like MACs and have a hard time with the user interface, so I enable remote access and installed http://www.tightvnc.com/ on my PC. Flip open the MAC lid, copy my files to the MAC through the network, use TightVNC to control the MAC desktop; do all the work from my PC (you’ll need a geek to get something like this setup).

    • Michael W. Perry March 30, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

      Amazon and Apple took differing paths for the EU-VAT pricing problem that struck on January 1 of this year.

      * Amazon, with its a ‘we are in control’ philosophy, automatically adjusted ebook prices upward to take into account those changes in the VAT. There did seem to be some strange logic involved though. For my books, UK prices in pounds weren’t raised nearly as much as those in EU countries.

      * Apple, with its ‘have it your way’ philosophy, made no changes to prices. Authors and publishers had to make their own adjustments. I had some glitches with the bulk-change process that should have allowed me to change all Euro prices at once. Unable to find a workaround, I ending up changing the prices by hand. Not good, but not the end of the world either. I prefer Apple’s ‘have it your way.’

      Don’t forget that the large slide in the Euro’s conversion rate to U.S. dollars mean that authors in the U.S. are going to see less dollar income from the same number of sales.

      For many authors it may be simpler to consider overseas sales as like icing on the cake and not fret about these changing VATs and conversion rates.

      I also second those who like to set prices lower in low-income countries than high-income. One of the advantages of digital is that there are no fixed print costs to force a retail price below which a book cannot go. You can charge prices low enough to encourage sales country by country.

      • Ruby April 23, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

        There is no VAT on books in the UK (unlike most of the rest of the EU. That’s why your UK prices didn’t jump as much as other European prices when the VAT was factored in.

  28. Julie Day February 9, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

    I’m a PC user, but I do have an iPad. I don’t believe in being exclusive either, which is why I now put all my ebooks everywhere I can. For Apple, I used to upload to SW but now to D2D as they are much faster at distributing it. My last ebook only took them half a day to distribute.

    • giacomo giammatteo February 14, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

      Julie, there shouldn’t be any difference between uploading to Apple using Smashwords or Draft2Digital. Both of them send books to Apple mulitple times a day. My most recent book, using Smashwords, uploaded same day (within a few hours). And both are great companies to work with.

      The differences you might see or hear about can usually be attributed to the time of day you might have uploaded, how busy Apple was that day, etc.

  29. Meda White February 8, 2015 at 7:37 pm #

    I’m a PC user, but I rent a “MacinCloud” to upload my books to Apple. I pay by the hour and had to buy a minimum of 30 hrs ($30) which is about what I paid someone to upload my first one for me before I heard of MacinCloud. It was tricky at first because I was unfamiliar with Mac screens, buttons, and how they are fond of drag & drop. But now that I’ve done it a few times, it’s really easy.

  30. Rob C February 8, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    My book is non-fiction. I chose Apple exclusively because (a) colour illustrations/photos/paintings look beautiful on an iPad, not on most kindles (b) iBooksAuthor allows galleries of images, plus moving maps, graphs and movies, and links to YouTube videos and external URLs, plus samples from iTunes (to “illustrate” musical references), and links between chapters inside the book, and (c) it is a large book 1 Gb and easy(ish) and cheap to load via iBooks.
    BUT like Cassie says, it is difficult to browse the iBooks shelves and discover my book. I am now reformatting my book and reducing its image content to get it onto other formats esp Amazon. But my heart is not in it because it will not be a modern reading experience.

    • MJ February 28, 2016 at 8:59 pm #

      Thanks, that’s good to know!

  31. CD Reiss February 8, 2015 at 4:04 am #

    FYI – I upload epubs on Amazon. I haven’t uploaded a mobi file in a year.

    • Digireado October 13, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

      Hi CD Reiss, I’m interested in your comment – you don’t need mobi files for Amazon? I didn’t know that!

  32. Cassie Hayes February 7, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

    The biggest problem with iBooks is discoverability. Amazon’s also-boughts are a powerful tool, even if you’re not in Select. There is almost no organic discoverability on iBooks, so there’s almost no chance someone would just happen upon my books there. They have to either actively search for them or click a direct link that I (or possibly a friend) supplies. If iBooks incorporated also-boughts (or their ‘hip’ version of it), I think they could be a real contender.

    • giacomo giammatteo February 14, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

      Cassie, I don’t know how others search/browse for books, but when I go to the ibooks store i simply choose my category, sub-category, then browse. I actually find it a more pleasant experience than Amazon because all of the books are listed on one page.

      Aside from browsing, I agree that Apple has some catching up to do re: discoverability, but I think that’s coming. They purchased Booklamp last year. It was a small company dedicated to book discoverability with well-respected technology. With Apple’s resources, I think they’ll do some great things with it.

      • Witold Jaworski March 30, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

        I have similar difficulty in finding my books in iBookstore as Cassie. Giacomo, do you think that when you are browsing books in this way, you are presented the most popular titles? On iBookstore there is no chance for any internal mechanism that would lift your book except the sales rank and “newly added” attribute. All what you can do is to create some marketing “buzz” about your book elsewhere.
        Amazon has such facilities.
        (To be fair: I definitely prefer to sell my non-fiction, >60MB books on iBookstore than in Amazon. It gives me 100% more per book. However, so far I sold most of my books on Amazon, because of its better discoverability).

  33. Debra Holland February 7, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    Much to think about here. Thanks for the thoughtful article.

    I pay my formatter a small fee to upload to Apple for me, even though I have a Mac. Once she’s done that, I have control over changes.

  34. John M W Smith February 7, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    Is it possible to upload to Apple using an iPad? With the ms on a Word document?

    • giacomo giammatteo February 7, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

      John: You can’t use an iPad (unless something has changed recently). But there are plenty of options. You can access a Mac at a library, or through a friend, or use the “rent a mac” program on the Internet, or simply use a distributor/aggregator like Smashwords or Draft2Digital, or anyone you choose. If you use a distributor, you’ll pay about 15% of your portion of the commissions, so instead of earning 70% on each book, you’ll earn 60%. That’s not a bad deal for what you get.

  35. Giacomo Giammatteo February 6, 2015 at 9:33 pm #

    MT. The lower pricing in other countries definitely helps. And if you have the time, list them in the local currency.

  36. M T McGuire February 6, 2015 at 6:48 pm #

    That’s a great point about pricing lower for countries like India and Brasil. I have sold books there so I will definitely apply your price thing since your UK and US prices are about in line with mine. Have to say, I have a kindle keyboard, which I love for reading outdoors in summer on holiday but I do all the rest with a kindle app or iBooks on an iPad.

    Cheers

    MTM

  37. Giacomo Giammatteo February 6, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

    Kev: Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you’re doing well on borrows. There is no question that Amazon is still the one that generates the most sales (for most people), but I don’t like their policy on exclusivity. I strongly believe it is bad for business overall. Each person has to determine if it’s right for them, though. That’s what it’s all about.

    One more thing: as to Lulu, I would NOT encourage anyone to use Lulu to get their book into Apple or anywhere else. There are far better choices, like Smashwords and Draft2Digital among others. You might want to read our report on Lulu, if you’re interested in more detail.

  38. Kev Partner February 6, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    An interesting perspective, however there are a couple of issues. Firstly, as far as I’m aware, Apple has no facility for allowing books to be borrowed. Amazon does, and it pays authors for each borrow – that represents significant income for me.

    Secondly, although it’s true that Amazon only allows one promotion per 90 day Select period, that promotion is actually very powerful because Amazon markets your book for you by placing it in their Countdown Deals. Not only is the book more visible, it also gets the countdown period added to its detail page, encouraging sales. I see sales bumps of around 5x overall and I make around 3x as much in cash terms.

    When you add these two income streams together with the greater sales volumes Amazon offers, Select is still a compelling offer for me. That’s not to say I won’t be keeping an eye on it.

    Finally, it’s relatively simple to have an ebook distributed to Apple if you use a service such as Lulu.com to handle it. Although, in that case, they take a cut.

  39. Pauline Baird Jones February 5, 2015 at 11:08 pm #

    PC users can gain access to Producer through Macincloud. It allows them to rent time in the cloud for uploads. iConnect can then be used on PCs to manage your IP. Also, there are companies that will do the uploading for PC authors, who can then manage their IP on iConnect. 🙂

    • Giacomo Giammatteo February 5, 2015 at 11:10 pm #

      Thanks, Pauline. Great info.

    • JAYNE April 28, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

      Hi, can you let me know any of the company details who upload for you. This is a minefield to me as a new author!. Jayne.

  40. Michael N. Marcus February 5, 2015 at 10:30 pm #

    For important books, I sell thru multiple book vendors and let my readers decide which companies they want to patronize. I don’t want to be restricted, or restrict.

    For less important books, I go Kindle-only because it’s simple for me, and readers accept it.

    http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com

    • Giacomo Giammatteo February 5, 2015 at 10:51 pm #

      “Less-important” books? Be careful, Michael, those books might hear you and rise up in revolt. But I hear what you’re saying. Everyone has to do what they feel is best for each book.

    • Michael W. Perry March 30, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

      Michael, you’re like me. You hate the hassle of uploads.

      But you might want to look into Smashwords. With an easy UI and but one set of uploads, it can place those “less important books” with a host of retailers including Apple, B&N and Kobo. Uploads are free and the only cost is giving Smashwords about 10% of that added income.

      • MJ February 28, 2016 at 8:52 pm #

        FANTASTIC IDEA — but how many readers will get a chance to see the Smashwords account? Most people haven’t heard of them. Plus, can you also upload pictures for your books?

  41. David Penny February 5, 2015 at 10:17 pm #

    Oops – I meant Giacamo, not Jim. My bad.

  42. David Penny February 5, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

    Hmm – a lot to think about here, and a great post. I’ve been Amazon exclusive until now and think I’ve been seduced by the fact I’m getting as many borrows through KU as sales, but this has me re-considering that decision. As you say, Jim, Amazon is a *lot* more complicated to upload to. I have registered an account, but even that took me some time. I need to take a breath before I think about uploading a book. Apple suffers from the same problem as the Microsoft web sites – it’s a company run by geeks, and geeks don’t understand how complicated stuff can appear to the rest of the world.

    • Giacomo Giammatteo February 5, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

      David, actually Amazon is far easier to upload to, and easier to get set up with in general. Once you go through the process with Apple it’s easy after that, but the beginning is more difficult.

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