Apple Claims 180 Million iBooks Downloads

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iBooks Makes BankApple said on Tuesday that the company has had 180 million downloads from its iBooks ePub book store. The news came during Apple’s quarterly conference call with analysts, and served to highlight Apple’s ongoing success with iTunes.

Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer told analysts that Apple customers have downloaded more than 16 billion songs and 650 million TV show. He added, “We’ve also been very pleased with the growing popularity of the I bookstore with over 180 million downloads of I books to date.”

iBooks was launched in April of 2010, just ahead of the the launch of the original iPad. The online book store put Apple in direct competition with retailing giant Amazon, which got its start selling books online. Amazon eventually introduced ebooks to the market with its Kindle ereader, and followed that with an Android tablet called Kindle Fire the company will shop later this fall.

Apple didn’t offer a dollar amount for its iBooks sales, nor did it quantify the number of units sold versus the number of units downloaded. Some books are downloaded to multiple devices per account, and some of the titles available on iBooks are free. Apple has never specified what it determines as a “download” from the many facets of its iTunes store.

We noted, however, that Apple also said it has now sold 40 million iPads. 180 million iBooks downloads means that the company is so far averaging 4.5 iBooks per iPad sold, though those numbers are skewed by several factors.

For one thing, iBooks can also be read on iPhone, making the iBooks-per-iPad number a rough estimate, at best. Also, if you want to look at the number of books sold per iPad, 11.12 million iPads were sold just in the last quarter, that’s more than a quarter of all iPads sold, and those owners haven’t had time to download many iBooks yet.

In other words, iBooks has taken off and has positioned Apple as a significant book retailer, despite Apple’s late entry into the market when compared to Amazon.

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Book downloads are indeed a difficult metric to interpret. I have downloaded a boatload of of free classics, although I have also been an avid purchaser of books for sale on the iBook Store (I have also been doing so at Amazon, but prefer the Apple format, so where both stores have my item of interest, I tend to go the iBook Store). In fact, I would say that I have probably purchased more books this past quarter than I have music (excluding purchases for my daughter, but let’s not go there).

The point being, if one looked on balance at the books in my library, the smaller fraction by far, to date, would be purchases. At my current buy rate, however, I expect that to change in 12 - 18 months.

Bryan Chaffin

You described my own book buying habits to a tee. I prefer the iBooks app, but have bought several titles from Amazon, which has the broader selection.

OK, outside the tee, I haven’t downloaded many free books, classic or not.

Nonetheless, my gut feeling is that the vast majority of books are purchased.  The only thing that would really skew Apple’s numbers are if they count downloads by the account or by the device. Either way, though, and I think we can say that Apple helped kill Borders.

Which makes me sad, even as I turn back to my current iBooks novel.


Which makes me sad, even as I turn back to my current iBooks novel

“Crocodile tears!”, shouts the dishevelled and now unemployed Borders store clerk, as he shambles off, clutching the small satchel of his remaining worldly possessions, and muttering incoherent obscenities about the iPad.

Borders’ closing was a sad event. My wife and I attended a close out sale near Towson, Maryland. The place was packed with patrons. There was a real sense of community and shared loss, as well as commiseration with the staff.

As far as the iPad (which I had the temerity to carry with me into the store - I know…anyway) is concerned, patrons at the occasion seemed to be split between those who swore by the printed page and those who admitted to shifting towards electronic downloads on iPads and Kindles, including some of the staff I spoke to.

Time marches on, but that sense of community around Borders will be missed.

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