The Apple iBookstore opened in Switzerland last Wednesday. I heard from @mikecane on Twitter, who sent me this link. Until now, the store only contained public domain Gutenberg Project titles, and the only way to get other books into the store was to purchase DRM-free ebooks as ePub or PDF, or convert them from another format if not available.
When I first opened the Bookstore, the Featured page looked no different than it had since April 2010.
Had I not known the store was open, I might have closed the application, but I decided to look a little further.
Selecting Featured and sorting by release date, I noticed right away that there were new non-Gutenberg titles, but all of them seemed to be free.
It was only when I clicked on Top Charts that it became clear that there were in fact titles for sale.
Next I tried browse. Oddly, one of what should have been the most popular categories, Crime and Thrillers, was empty.
However Fiction and Literature was still filled with Gutenberg.
Apparently, the store was open, but not yet fully functional.
I checked back on Thursday, and when I sorted by release date, the number of titles had tripled; from 16,964 on Wednesday to 51,735 on Thursday.
The Top Charts hadn’t budged, but browse by categories was populated, apparently with German titles.
At first, the Feature page was the same as it had been on Wednesday,
but after browsing Crime and Thrillers, when I reloaded, it had changed too.
At the bottom, there’s an option to switch from German titles to French ones. Italian and Romansch speakers are apparently out of luck for now.
Here’s what the French page looks like:
Results from an author search for René Barjavel:
Sadly, if you’d like to read one of his works on iPad, you’re out of luck. However, if you need to read La Nuit des Temps or Ravage for a class, but don’t have the time or aren’t inclined, you can get the Fiche de Lecture (the French equivalent of the Cliff Notes).
On Friday, the number of titles was up to 53,892 and essentially hasn’t budged since. I haven’t looked to see how this number compares to the number of titles in the US store. It could be rather misleading because some titles appear multiple times for German, French and English versions.
What about English titles? There’s no way to browse for them, but you can search by author or title to find them. Here are the results of a search for books by Stieg Larsson. There is a mix of English and German (and one odd French one).
It might seem surprising to get titles in a mix of languages, but since so many people are multi-lingual here, it feels right to me even if it is a little messy. A filter would be nice to be able to selectively limit to a particular language in cases where search returns a large number of results.
Before posting, I decided to check out the store on my iPhone. It’s a mess. The Featured page still seems to be stuck on Gutenberg.
However, if you click Biographies or History, you’ll find some titles for purchase in those categories.
The Top Charts are in German, and there’s no button to display the equivalent page for French books.
After more than a year’s wait, it’s disappointing to see the iBookstore seem so neglected. As more people discover it, perhaps it will receive more attention and new titles will regularly appear. On the other hand, that may not be likely. I regularly get emails from Apple announcing new products, but there was no peep of the opening of the iBookstore.
Overall, it’s rather disappointing.