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The Fastest-Growing Category in the iTunes App Store: Books

At least as measured in terms of number of unique applications, Books have grown the fastest over the last 12 weeks. (Data for this post limited to apps on the U.S. iTunes store through 3/1/2009.)

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Granted releasing an e-book for the iPhone is a lot easier than writing a gaming application using the iPhone SDK. Roughly 6 out 10 of the Books on the app store sell for 99 cents or less, and 1 in 20 are free:

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The number of premium priced Books (i.e. those priced at $10 or more) has grown from roughly 1 in 50 Books 12 weeks ago, to 1 in 10 during the most recent week. When I talk to iPhone developers, I get the impression they’re actively conducting pricing experiments. No surprise that publishers are also conducting their own test-and-learn pricing studies.

While the iPhone is attracting e-book readers, gaming apps continue to be the most popular. Games remain the dominant category both in terms of number of apps (24% of all apps), and in terms of sales. During a typical week, two-thirds of all apps on the TOP PAID APPS list are Games, while a lone Book spends time on the list. Also note that competition is much fiercer these days: compared to Aug/Sep 2008, fewer apps are able to crack the TOP PAID APPS list during a calendar week.

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The total number of unique apps continues to grow steadily with close to 18,000 apps appearing in the U.S. app store last week (about 30% of which were free). Since the launch of the U.S. app store, close to 25,000 have appeared on iTunes:

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The recession has been accompanied by a decline in the price of top-sellers in the U.S. app store. The mean price of an app on the TOP PAID APPS list has trended downward, but has stabilized to about $2.55 over the last month. The corresponding mean price in August 2008, the month prior to the onset of the banking crisis, was about $4.13.

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While the MEAN is sensitive to a few expensive top-selling apps, the MEDIAN price of the TOP PAID APPS has also declined. From a value of $2.92 in August 2008, the MEDIAN price of such apps has settled to about $1.99 over the last 11 weeks.

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  • http://www.get-sorted.net/ Catherine Cantieri, Sorted

    Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a library of cheap-ish (say, $5 or less?) murder mysteries available on my iPod touch!

    Well, actually, I’d clearly give up to $5 each. But considering how fast I read murder mysteries, that adds up!

  • ipoddude

    The main use of our old iPod Nano has been books for years. The biggest problem is the price, audio books are expensive.

    Yet to try them on our touch. Hoping for an iPod touch with 6″ screen… specifically to read on.

  • http://cheekyattitude.com Tricia

    I’ve used eReader since my Palm / Treo days and am thrilled they have an iPhone app. There are tons of classic works that are free from manybooks.net and the eReader site sells bestsellers. I’ve got no use for a Kindle. I got the iPhone to minimize my gadgets – works beautifully.

  • YR

    how could someone read a book on such a small screen is beyond my understanding

  • http://web.mac.com/mart_hill Martin Hill

    @YR
    How someone could not read a book on such an excellent-size nice and pocketable, self-illuminating, colour screen is beyond my understanding. ;-)

    I personally have read dozens of full-length ebooks on my iPhone, iPod touch and various flavours of Windows Mobile PDA phones, Sony Ericsson smartphones, Plams etc. And i love the freedom to read anywhere and everywhere.

    Don’t assume everyone is as blind as you.

    -Mart

  • http://digitalbeat.com winston lawrence

    I have ereader and Stanza on the ipod touch. My Sony ereader is gathering dust. So far I’ve read three novels and two fiction magazines on the touch. With the adjustable colors, font sizes, touch screen, smooth (and fast) page turning it is SO much more usable than the SONY it’s in a class by itself.

  • Paul

    Just watch, the long term effects of reading on a compact screen such as iphone/ipod will result in major health issues down the road. People will go blind from too much eye strain.

  • http://www.cyclelogicpress.com Neil Anderson

    The touch is a lovely device to read on.

  • Robert

    People are too connected now a days. It’s nice picking up a real book from time to time and actually knowing there’s a physical paper page to flip over.

  • Mary

    Check out your local library. Many library websites have books you can checkout and download to your moble devices, ipods, iphones, mp3 players, etc. — and the books (and apps) are free — if you have a library card.

  • Deirdre

    Great to read all of your comments, I work with a self published author, and some days, like today, I feel like catching the next wave of HOW to deliver her books seems a mystery, as tech. gagets just keep changing and changing. AND printing costs SO much more, but then you HAVE a real book……
    interesting.
    I myself spend hours in front of a screen daily, but not a little portable one. I’d love more direct input from any who would like to direct the future of ONE self help author, and her faithful marketing squire (me).

    Thanks,
    Deirdre

  • http://logicopolis.com/apps/whiteboard/ Info

    I’m reading The Odyssey by Homer on my iPhone… this is totally great.

    Checkout out our Whiteboard App!!!

  • http://www.questionofthedaybook.com Al Katkowsky

    Would love to see an update of this article. The Books category is on pace to hit 10,000 in the next two weeks.