A tiny hint that retailers are maybe starting to pay attention

So, Apple is starting to highlight self-published e-books in its store.

It's something, right? I mean, if you compare Amazon, which has been great to self-published writers, and Barnes & Noble, which has pretty much sucked for self-published writers, and you look at who is seeing more e-book growth, it might occur to you that appealing to self-published writers might be good business.

Might be!

Of course, you have to actually appeal to them, which is harder to do than saying, "We just love us some self-published writers!" To actually appeal to self-published writers, you have to make the service easy for writers to use (time is money, after all). And then you actually have to be good at attracting readers (helpful hint: hiding the free books is a bad idea), and then you have to make it easy for those readers to find and buy and read stuff, because what self-published writers really like is sales.

Apple does not have a great reputation on any of these fronts.

With Apple (and Kobo, too) it seems like they're making a lot of promising noises. And that's great--I'm glad they're thinking of moving into this sector more aggressively. I think more sales platforms are good, because then writers would have to rely less on Amazon. I think if people really gave it some thought, they could create real competition: Passive Guy has a great post on how much book discovery could be improved by making a search engine that works more like Lexis-Nexis--which is a very robust search engine, to be sure, but hardly a new technology.

But if Barnes & Noble is proving anything, it's that the devil of selling e-books is in the details. So far, I don't see a lot of retailers really nailing those details.