22 April 2013

the iTunes effect

The truth as of April 2013: if you want to read a Kindle-published book, you can read it on any hardware that can run a reasonably up-to-date Web browser. The same is true for any Kobo publication. You don't need a special client, you don't need to buy an ebook reader.

But if you want to buy something from iTunes, you can't. That's because iTunes won't work unless you install their client, and their client is not supported on all platforms. Not surprisingly, I'm on one that isn't supported.

Now, this isn't a "complaining" blog post, because 98% of the time I don't especially notice. What I want to get into is why I don't notice, and what that means for anyone who wants to self-publish something they've created, whether that's stories or music or anything else.

Life without iTunes means that I'm exposed to music that is considered more obscure in my geographical area, though it may be popular elsewhere. Out of the last four albums-for-lack-of -a-better-term I've bought:

Two were from house concerts I attended (best small-venue acoustics ever, by the bye).

One was reviewed in a newspaper in a foreign country (there the release was major news; my local press barely covered it).

One I found out about because I follow the musicians on Twitter, and they used Pledge Music (similar to Kickstarter) to pre-sell.

There's a fifth release I want to get when it comes out in June. It was also a foreign-press find.

So what? Near as I can tell:

My tastes are trending more towards alternative just when my age, gender, occupation, and income bracket are all indicating I should be getting more conservative and having more mainstream tastes.

"Regionalism" is on shakier ground than a lot of big companies should be comfortable with. From where I'm sitting, it seems like the smaller independent artists are having a much better time embracing global marketing than the majors.

Straightforward, direct appeals can work very, very well. I got to preview all but one of my recent purchases in their entirety. There was no finding out I'd just blown twenty bucks on a single.

There's nothing wrong with using major distribution channels to make your work available, but if you only use the majors, some people will not be able to give you money at all.

It's easy to write off support of the alternatives as small, unimportant, not worth the effort. I'm sure most analyses used to show that about Apple.

But then look what happened.

I know, I know, anecdote is not the singular form of data. I just think it's interesting to consider.

What say you?


  1. I'm a big Apple fan. I write on a MacBook, have an iPhone in my pocket, and the wife and grandkid monopolize the iPad. But I buy music from Amazon. I like the selection (my vices are 80s pop and electronica), I like the prices, and I like the complete lack of DRM. Amazon's "no potential customer left behind" attitude means they provide a music downloader that moves my music purchases directly into iTunes, so it's no more of a hassle buying music from Amazon than from Apple.

    But IMO, the difference stems from their business models. Amazon is about selling content, the Kindle line being a conduit for further media purchases; Apple is about selling hardware, and iTunes is a perk (the Windows version is a nod to multi-OS households).

    Actually, Kindle books aren't the best example. Yes, they have webapps and computer apps, as well as tablet apps. But try reading a Kindle book on a Kobo or Nook without pushing the file through Calibre to convert (and un-DRM, if necessary) it first. I guess, by the same token, you could run iTunes under WiNE, and transfer non-DRM music accordingly.

    1. Great point about "no potential customer left behind".

      Alas, I have never actually got anything to run successfully in WINE. Usually the process is:
      1. Install WINE
      2. Realise I need a whole lot of DLLs and other resource files I don't have because I don't actually own any copies of Windows.
      3. Give up and find an alternative.

  2. Never taken the plunge into the Apple Utopia. Between Youtube, Amazon and band websites, I've never had trouble finding affordable DRM-free music, and I tend to be way behind the curve for tastes. Often what I'm craving is already in the public domain. I can't imagine desiring something as proprietary as iTunes; for podcasts I always download ala carte.

    1. I'm about the same way -- I totally confused some friends a few years ago by enthusing about an album that was released before I was born as if it had just come out last week (more like I'd only found out about it last week).

      Mostly, walled gardens are a pain, if the content is only available inside the garden. iTunes is a walled garden.


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