Amazon.com’s growing rivalry with Apple appears poised to take an interesting twist.

Apple is planning a press event later this month in New York City, reports Kara Swisher of AllThingsD.com, quoting anonymous sources. Alexia Tsotsis of TechCrunch follows up with confirmation and an extra detail — reporting that Apple will be announcing improvements to its iBooks platform.

Translation: Look out, Amazon.

Leveraging the strength of the iPad in the tablet market, Apple has emerged as one of Amazon’s biggest foils in the digital book market, working out alternative arrangements with book publishers on the behind-the-scenes pricing structures for e-books. Amazon, meanwhile, has been going its own way by establishing its own publishing imprints and promoting its direct-to-Kindle publishing program for authors.

In short, Amazon wants more influence over pricing and distribution of electronic books, and it’s willing to sidestep traditional publishers if necessary.

The tension is evident in initiatives such as Amazon’s Kindle Owners’ Lending Library program, which gives Amazon Prime subscribers access to one book a month as part of their $79/year subscription fee. The big book publishers are not on board with the program, and the catalog of eligible books is limited as a result.

Amazon needs to make Amazon Prime attractive, particularly to Kindle Fire owners, to help make up for the rock-bottom $199 price of its tablet. Apple, on the other hand, has the luxury of not relying as heavily on revenue from content such as books, thanks to significantly higher profit margins on its hardware.

Bottom line: Apple is in a position to work in closer partnership with book publishers to improve iBooks and make life for Amazon more difficult. And because of that, it should be very interesting to see what Apple announces later this month.

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/msft_tinkering Garth H

    “Bottom line: Apple is in a position to work in closer partnership with book publishers to improve iBooks and make life for Amazon more difficult.” A.k.a. Apple is going to paint themselves into a corner and give Amazon and the FTC more ammo on their price-fixing allegations. I really hope Apple and the publishers get kicked to the curb on this one because I really miss e-books costing LESS than physical books.

  • jason warren

    Unless Apple has something coming with an electrophoretic screen, all the improvements in the world won’t make iBooks a fun, enjoyable, or efficient way to read digital books. In this one unique area, Amazon has the much, *much* better UX than Apple. They also have a  critical mass (and growing) of book inventory. For as long as these circumstances hold, it’s hard to see how Apple can do more than play at the edges of digital books and book readers.

    • Guest

      “Playing at the edges” in a walled garden can still net lots of money.  Would not surprise me if Apple were making more money on book sales (for mobile devices) than Amazon.

    • Guest

      “Playing at the edges” in a walled garden can still net lots of money.  Would not surprise me if Apple were making more money on book sales (for mobile devices) than Amazon.

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