Buying a digital book for your iPad is a very odd experience. If you fire up iTunes, you can find music, movies, apps, even audiobooks, but there is no category for digital books. You need to first download the iBooks app, and then buy books within that app. So it is like a marketplace within a marketplace that also happens to be a reader. The Kindle app also works that way. It is confusing.
But if you go into the App Store, you can find a whole category of iPad apps which are books. Many of them are interactive and tend to be children’s books like Green Eggs And Ham ($3.99) or Miss Spider’s Tea Party ($7.99). Increasingly, more and more books will end up in the App Store for a variety of reasons. The biggest one is simply because apps are more interesting.
If a book publisher wants to add any features beyond what is available in iBooks, including adding informational apps, links to the outside Web or sharing excerpts with friends on Twitter and Facebook, they are better off publishing the book as an app. Startups like Rethink Books (which I covered yesterday) are developing software platforms for publishers to do just that—turning books into social apps.
Right now, books remain somewhat hidden in iTunes. There is no clear book category up top, other than audiobooks, among the main media types. You have to dive into the iBooks app or find book apps in the App Store. But if Apple is serious about making the iPad a book reading device, it should make it a little easier to find all the books that can be read on it in one place.