Apple said to be planning major iBooks revamp for iOS 11.3

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iBooks
iBooks may not be ready for a big revamp.
Photo: Apple

Apple is working on a major iBooks overhaul for iOS 11.3, according to a new report.

The company has hired a former Amazon and Barnes & Noble executive to help reboot its e-book business, which will also see the launch of a new reader for iPhone and iPad.

Apple teased its iOS 11.3 update on Wednesday and provided developers with the first beta a few hours later. The release includes new Animoji for iPhone X, Messages on iCloud, and lots more. There’s no mention of a new iBooks, but Bloomberg says it’s coming.

‘Books’ will wage new war with Amazon

There is a small sign that change is afoot. The built-in iBooks app now sports the more generic name “Books,” following in the footsteps of apps like Music, Podcasts, and TV. Bigger changes will rollout in the coming months.

“This will be the biggest upgrade to Apple’s e-book service in several years and provides renewed competition in a market that Amazon has dominated,” reads the Bloomberg report.

The upgrade will include a redesigned Books app with a “simpler interface.” It will also feature a new bookstore styled on the redesigned App Store. Sources familiar with the app’s development also say there will be a new section called “Reading Now,” and a dedicated tab for audio books.

iBooks is in need of a revamp

iBooks has been left behind while Apple has revamped other, more lucrative services for iOS. Selling e-books and fighting Amazon hasn’t been as important for Apple as it once was.

Part of the reason for this may be a previous lawsuit Apple was involved with. Back in 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Apple and publishers for conspiring to raise the price of e-books. Apple was accused of working with five publishers — Hachette, Harper Collins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan — to increase e-book prices from Amazon’s standard $9.99 price up to $12.99 or $14.99 on titles. All of the publishers already paid $166 million to settle. In the end, Apple was fined $450 million in 2016.

Amazon has benefitted from Apple’s willingness to give up some of the space since then. According to book sale tracker AuthorEarnings, the online retail giant captured more than 83 percent of the U.S. e-book market early last year.

To help with the iBooks reboot, Apple has hired Kashif Zafar, formerly a senior vice president of Audible, Amazon’s audio book business. Before joining Amazon, Zafar was a content vice president in Barnes & Noble’s e-reader division.