Since most major news publications assume that everyone in the world should care about Apple, even if you don’t own an Apple device you’re likely aware that Apple will no longer allow ebook apps like Kindle or Kobo to sell ebooks directly through the app without giving Apple 30% of the profit.
In response, Amazon, Google Books, and Kobo have eliminated the purchase option inside their apps. It’s easy enough to bypass the restriction by just going to their websites through the browser, which makes the decision by Apple more annoying than anything else.
It’s like that New York Times pay wall that people immediately found twenty different ways around. It doesn’t keep you from doing something, it just requires a couple of extra steps that shouldn’t be necessary.
What I’m wondering is whether this latest move to make it more difficult for readers to read the books they like how they like will finally free some librarians from the Apple Cult?
I at least was hardly surprised by the news a couple of months ago that an MRI scan of an Apple fanboy (and it’s always a boy, it seems) suggested “that Apple was actually stimulating the same parts of the brain as religious imagery does in people of faith.”
To those of us not in the cult, the cultish aspects are obvious. Watching people who have neither used nor handled any other smartphone telling me the iPhone is the “best smartphone ever,” or who would never have bought a tablet computer unless Apple made one telling me how the iPad is a “must have device,” is like being Jewish or Catholic or Muslim and watching evangelical Christians talk about the impending Rapture and how Jesus is coming soon to take them home. Um, okay, I guess I’ll just have to take your word on it.
It’s a cult at odds with the culture of librarianship, too, or at least the culture some librarians claim they want to see. Various librarians say they want a culture of openness and technological sophistication, and surely they’d also want a culture of choice about how to read ebooks.
The Apple Cult is all about control, technological passivity, and an absence of choice, the iPhone/iPad/iPod array of devices in particular. Macs are great computers, if overpriced, but iPhones are smartphones for people who like to be told what to do by Steve Jobs.
Those devices are all great as long as you want to passively consume content and have no interest in adding any apps or files to them that Apple disapproves of. They’re about as closed-source as you can get.
Yet librarians rave. I read one blog post by a librarian trying to persuade people how great the iPad was for writing, including long form writing, despite its very obvious limitations. It was the kind of argument that often comes from the Apple Cult, with the iPad as the latest fetish object.
“Well, no, it’s not as good at many things as a laptop, but since it’s an Apple device I just had to have anyway, I’ll try to pretend it’s good for something it’s not really good for. Apple, Apple, Apple!”
I guess if you are a two-finger typist who doesn’t want the sophistication of a great word processing program, then sure, the iPad is a writer’s dream. For fast typists who need sophisticated word processors, writing with an iPad is like writing with an Etch-a-Sketch.
I mentioned the writing problem to one Apple fanboy I know, and he said he solved the problem by getting the detachable iPad keyboard. I guess with the keyboard, the iPad can become a really crappy laptop. Or you could just get Macbook Air, or (gasp!) a non-Apple netbook.
Don’t get me wrong. The iPad is a beautiful device if what you mostly want to do is look at pretty pictures and crisp fonts. Reading a Kindle ebook or the New York Times on an iPad is a very pleasant experience.
Even reading on the iPhone isn’t too bad. Of course, you don’t have the freedom of a real Kindle, or of the Kindle app on other smartphones, both of which allow you to add content that isn’t just synced from Amazon. It’s even more of a closed system than the iPad.
That closed system has now gotten more closed thanks to the recent ebook sales shift. A couple of years ago Steve Jobs said nobody reads books anymore, when it was really just him that didn’t read books.
Now that Apple has realized people do read books, and that they’re not paying Apple for the privilege, Apple wants to make it even harder for people to have any choices on their devices for reading books. Is this really a company any librarians should support?
Amazon gets bashed by librarians for not lending books to libraries or for the Kindle not being in compliance with epub, but Apple’s command and control policy is quietly ignored. A little bias, perhaps?
Maybe the next step will be to eliminate the other ebook apps entirely. If they did, there’s nothing the Apple user could do about it. The Overdrive app might be next, once Apple realizes that if people can borrow library ebooks on their iPad, they will buy fewer of them from the iBooks store.
Even if that happened, it wouldn’t matter to librarians in the cult. They would just come up with another ad hoc reason why something that was annoying and unnecessary was really okay, because, you know, it’s Apple and they know what’s best for us. After all, Apple works in mysterious ways its wonders to perform.