January 30, 2015 Last Updated 8:39 am

Guest column: iBooks Author vs. Kindle Textbook Creator

Bradley Metrock, CEO of Score Publishing, looks at the new Amazon digital book creation tool and sees long-term competition to Apple’s own solution

Are you ready to see two of the biggest companies in the world fight for the right to publish your next book?

Amazon and Apple – #1 and #2 ebook-sellers in the world, respectively – are poised to spend the next 20 years competing against each other to build the best digital book creation tool. Who can make it the easiest? Who can pack in the most features? Who will pay out the highest royalties? And who can bring the most potential customers?

Digital book creation programs are shaping up to be the loss-leader that brings new users into the fold of either Amazon’s or Apple’s ecosystem. Whichever company does the best job providing content creators with tools, will reap the long-term rewards of greater revenue, leverage, and influence as a result of having the largest user base.

iBA-Apple-780Apple got a head start, releasing iBooks Author back in January of 2012. The software got off to a rough start, but began to find its way last year as Apple backed it with significant marketing dollars and a massive, feature-rich software update late last year. iBooks Author allows users to publish digital books which seamlessly integrate audio and video features, interactive images and galleries, quizzes and 3D objects, a growing array of third-party widgets, and much more, almost to the point where an “iBook” can be difficult to distinguish from a standalone app. The software has evolved from being merely “interesting,” to essential.

Amazon just released Kindle Textbook Creator, designed to compete head-to-head against iBooks Author. The software, while in “beta” on both PC and Mac, lacks a lot of features – basically, it takes PDFs and turns them into the simplest form of digital textbook. No frills, no interactivity, almost no instructions whatsoever, one of the most unimaginative launch webpages ever, and little fanfare.


Kindle Textbook Creator workspace

Kindle Textbook Creator doesn’t even allow users to directly publish their books through Amazon from within the program – you have to export your book’s file, head to another part of Amazon’s site, and then take several additional steps to publish your book.

But it doesn’t matter how bland, unintuitive, and feature-poor Kindle Textbook Creator is, right now, at launch. All that matters now is that Amazon is in the game.

Apple, with its vaunted cache of cash, has grown accustomed to winning just about everything they do. Amazon, on the other hand, has shown it has unique understanding of how to use a loss-leader to gain market share.

Amazon has an estimated 65 percent ebook market share today, but Apple is gaining an average of 1 million new iBooks Store customers a week since adding the iBooks application to the dashboard of iOS 8 in September 2014.

The battle royale that is just now getting underway between these two juggernauts will be a spectacle to behold, almost certain to push forward the evolution of the ebook and blow open the door for continued, significant innovation in digital publishing.

If you are an entrepreneur, a creative, an author, a business person in any kind of learning or instructional technology role, an educator, or just about anyone in this halcyon era of self-publishing, hopefully you’re paying attention: Amazon throwing its hat in the ring means all of us are about to win.

Bradley Metrock is the CEO of Score Publishing, a digital business, focused on publishing, training, and certifications. Kindle Textbook Creator, and its implications for iBooks Author content producers, will be a major subject at the iBooks Author Conference this October 8-9 in Nashville (passes available via Eventbrite).