Some time today, Apple will start updating its mobile device operating system to iOS 8 for all its users. For ebook publishers, it’s the most important update yet, as iOS 8 will come pre-loaded with iBooks, a new development.
According to an Apple spokesperson, some 150 million Apple mobile devices have iBooks installed as of June 2013, the latest figures available. As of June 2014, the company had 800 million iOS devices in circulation, and 90% of them had iOS 7 installed, the latest version.
Assuming that even half of the 650 million Apple users who do not already have iBooks on their devices install the new operating system by the end of the year, that’s potentially 325 million new iBooks customers — and that’s not even counting the millions of iOS users Apple adds every month and expects to add with the launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
The company can’t expect all those people to convert over to paying iBooks users, but if even a tenth of one percent does, that’s over 300,000 new iBooks customers. If just one percent does, that’s over three million new paying customers, something that iBooks, which now looks like the No. 2 ebook retailer in the U.S. (and likely worldwide), can cheer as Amazon continues to press its advantages here and around the world.
By comparison, Kobo, likely the No. 3 ebook retailer in the world, had 21 million users as of August, according to chief content officer, Michael Tamblyn. Amazon does not share how many Kindle customers it has.
Apple did not specify how many new iBooks customers it expects through the launch of iOS 8, but it is taking steps to try to convert its new users to iBooks. The company will be offering a selection of 54 titles from 39 publishers in 30 countries and nine languages free to users.
In the U.S., the titles include Private by James Patterson (the first in his Jack Morgan series, published by Hachette), which now retails on Kindle for $7.99; The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (the first in his The Stormlight Archive series, Macmillan), which is on Kindle for $5.14; and Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepherd (the first in the eponymous series and inspiration for the ABC show, HarperCollins), now $4.91 on Kindle. iTunes users can see a complete list of the titles here (those without iTunes will be prompted to install it).
New iOS updates typically launch in the afternoon of the scheduled day, according to Time. Users who don’t immediately download the update will be prompted to on their device. Traditional thinking is that most users should wait until the first update of the iOS comes out to download the new version. Usually, Apple comes out with an update weeks after the launch, responding to bugs and complaints from early users, so, it could be months before publishers see a lift in their iBooks sales from the new installation.