Aussies get access to iBookstore, still losing out on content pricing

Australian iDevice users have finally gained access to paid, new release content in Apple's iBookstore, six months after users in the United States.

While Aussie users gained access to the iBook app at the same time as the rest of the globe, the ability to use an iPad, iPhone or iPod as a serious e-reader had been crippled by a lack of new release material, with only old, out-of-copyright books available for download.

Publishers including Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins, Hardie Grant, Murdoch Publishers and Wiley all have titles available for Australian users at launch, and Apple told The Sydney Morning Herald ''thousands'' of new release books have been added. Most publishers have promised to make new releases available on the iBookstore at the same time, or soon after, print versions hit the stores.

But the news isn't all good for Australians eager to get their fingers on a virtual tome or two. Despite a soaring Australian dollar, Aussie iBookstore users are losing out in comparison to those in the United States.

For example, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, available for $US8.99 on the US iBookstore, should equate to about the same amount in Australian dollars, with the AUD hovering around the USD 99 cent mark. Yet despite facing any of the distribution costs faced by bricks-and-mortar retailers, Twilight will set Aussie bookworms back $AU12.99 from the iBookstore.

Even when browsing Australian authors - of which there are relatively few at the moment - Apple's online offering still doesn't represent value for money. The biography of former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Lazarus Rising, can be picked up from a bookstore shelf for around $AU25, but costs nearly $10 more from the iBookstore.

Adding insult to injury, it's been reported that many previously free titles now carry a price tag despite absolutely no additions or changes to the book itself.

Apple has pointed the finger at publishers for the pricing disparity, but with a US iTunes account just a few clicks away for those who know the way, it's likely many Aussie users will forgo a trip to the Australian iBookstore in favour of its American counterpart.

The Australian iBookstore can be accessed via the free iBook app; no extra software is needed.

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