Apple's in an interesting position with the iBookstore, one it's never had in its years of successful content platforms: it has competitors. iTunes, both in music and video, was a pioneer; every other service, from Rhapsody to Napster to Zune, chased iTunes. But there's another giant in the e-book world, and its name is Amazon. And not only does Amazon have 80% of the e-book market, its store is available on Apple's own iPad.
The news that Barnes & Noble is also entering the iPad App Store, which came yesterday, is yet another better-established, more experienced competitor on Apple's home court. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are synonymous with books, and Amazon is the e-book pioneer. Apple is actually the underdog here, and can't let any opportunity to catch up pass them by.
Enter iTunes Connect's new inclusion of self-publishing. Apple has finally opened the doors to self-published authors wanting to list their books in the iBookstore. There's a bit of red tape to go through--each title needs an ISBN number and of course be in the correct format, and each submitter needs a valid iTunes account and U.S. Tax ID number--and the process seems to be a bit slow, as Apple must approve each title. But it's a vital step for the iBookstore: just as iTunes has become a place where unsigned artists can sell their music to a wide audience, e-book stores must support independent authors.
Kindle already has a well-established program of self-publishing, with thousands of authors taking advantage. The iBookstore isn't doing anything new here--but they are taking the proper steps to ensure that, at the very least, they have a fighting chance against Amazon and Barnes & Noble.