iBooks publishers looking to send ebooks to reviewers, or who want to stir up interest in a new title through a giveaway contest, are out of luck. Unlike the App Store, publishers cannot create promo codes for the iBookstore.
For iOS developers marketing their latest products, promo codes provide a critical tool. Generated by iTunes Connect, the developer's portal to the App Store, promo codes allow developers to give courtesy copies of apps to reviewers or use them for promotional giveaways.
That can be a bit of an issue for publishers. The Amazon Kindle Bookstore, which also lacks a way to generate promo codes, at least makes it possible to buy Amazon gift cards in any denomination. This allows publishers to offset ebook costs for their recipients.
With the iBookstore, the story is quite different. Erica Sadun and I recently ran a Twitter contest for our new Siri book. We were dismayed to discover that to give away our iBook priced at $4.99, we had one choice -- purchase a $15 (the minimum) iTunes card and gift it to the recipient.
That's not bad for a few copies here and there. But it could be disastrous to any small, first-time publisher trying to get a book noticed by reviewers.
Will Apple change this in the future? Chances are good that eventually there will be promo codes for the iBookstore. At the present time, the lack of promo codes could be yet another reason why the iBookstore is lagging behind the Amazon Kindle Bookstore both in terms of numbers of titles and in sales.