Beta testers of Apple's latest iOS update, 11.3, have begun pointing out a subtle, but potentially significant, rebranding of a classic feature: iBooks has been renamed as "Books," and users see this as more than just the omission of that "i."
Yesterday, Apple released the beta 1 preview version of 11.3, their latest operating system. While 11.3's flashier elements, like the Animoji unveiled at Apple's 2017 Special Event last September and the increasingly extensive augmented reality tools (ARKit), have stolen the most attention, the shift in Apple's e-book app has started making waves as well.
As AppleInsider pointed out, CEO Tim Cook, who took over the Apple reigns in 2011, has slowly been phasing out the iconic "i" nomenclature in recent years. A number of their latest releases, like Apple Watch and HomePod, are noticeably missing that li'l "i," which reportedly stood for "internet." iTunes is now Apple Music. And iBooks are now just "Books," though the implication is that they are soon to become "Apple Books."
The shift will reportedly offer more than a name edit. Books itself is allegedly being revamped, with an improved interface that moves more immediately to the books you're currently reading and a redesigned digital bookstore space, reports Bloomberg, akin to last year's App Store makeover. Audiobooks will reportedly be moved out of iTunes completely; Books will have a "Now Reading" section, which will house, separately from the rest of your library, all the books you've begun to read, and will retain their exclusive audiobooks tab.
All of this sounds great to me.
The reported decision to revamp the Books app, however, is also seen as a throwing down of the gauntlet in the ebooks world, currently dominated by Amazon. Like, really dominated — the commerce megastar snagged more than 83 percent of the ebook market in 2017, says Bloomberg.
This complete singularity was not always the case. Sales for ebooks were once a big earner for Apple. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice successfully sued Apple, alleging they and publishers had schemed to raise the price of ebooks. Apple subsequently faced a $450 million fine for their hand in the matter and turned their attention to developing updates for Apple Music and the App Store. Tim Cook, however, recently announced that Apple's digital-services division, under which ebooks, Apple Music and video rentals all fall, will be aiming for $50 billion in annual revenue by 2021; in 2016, they collectively generated $30 billion. The heat, therefore, has been turned up quite a bit.
The fight for space in the ebook arena, however, may prove to be a bit futile. Sales of ebooks fell over 2016 and 2017, with a nearly 20 percent decline in the first half of 2017, says CNN Money. Sales for actual, tangible books, on the other hand, were back up. The initial rise was attributed, in part, to the brief but bright popularity of coloring books, but reports continue to roll in suggesting Americans remain fans of the written word.