One reason some consumers haven’t jumped on the ebook bandwagon is because they’re concerned the format they select might become obsolete in a few years. Others dismiss that as unfounded pessimism but I have an example of how it can happen, and not with some fly-by-night platform. This problem happened on Apple’s extremely popular iOS platform.
Here’s a link to a problem one of our customers recently reported about our iOS ebook apps. As you’ll see, when iOS 6 arrived it broke our book apps by preventing readers from going beyond the first page of any chapter. This problem was caused by a chain-reaction of events:
- We hired a third-party to develop our iOS book apps. This was a pretty popular developer btw, used by many other publishers as well.
- That third-party developer was was acquired by someone not named Apple.
- Not surprisingly, it became quite clear after the acquisition that support from this developer would evaporate, especially for products on competing platforms like iOS.
- When iOS 6 hit and created this problem we had no way of updating the apps.
When the problem was reported my colleague Adam Witwer jumped in and offered the solution outlined a bit further down the thread. In short, we’re removing the apps from iTunes and offering free multi-format ebook bundles to anyone who previously bought the iOS apps.
Rather than being stuck with an iOS-only version our customers will now have access to the content in all major formats (e.g., PDF, EPUB and mobi). It was a painful lesson but it shows that even a platform as rich and robust as iOS can lead to a dead-end for ongoing content access and support.