The iPad: And the Cup of Apple Runneth Over...Or Doth It?

Yesterday the iPad was announced and as each shot of the presentation loaded on Engadget my shaking, twitching, frantic mutterings of "shit!" and "yes!" and "no God, please don't freeze now!" became more and more imbecilic, frequent and disturbed.

It's unknown as to whether the iPad is truly great or we've just been mind f*cked - Apple has been so tight fisted about details that the reveal felt like an orgy of information. People were hoping for a unicorn. Maybe you'll agree with this graphic.

Here are all the fun details and stats if you want it. Now, let's talk here about its potential impact on the publishing world and benefit to readers in general:
  • Size: The iPad, with a 9.7" screen, is approximately the same size as the Kindle so it should be comfortable enough to cart around.
  • Battery life: Not great, about 10 hours. A typical e-reader has a great battery life as their e-ink screens require little power to function. The iPad has no advantage here.
  • Screen: The iPad's screen should be a beast at displaying graphics and of course it'll be back lit. Will that translate into glare that'll make reading books impossible? Frankly, people complain constantly about reading off monitors but what are you doing now? What do you do eight hours a day at work? OK then.
  • iBooks app functionality: Who the heck knows? Presentation of its capacity was brief. The page turn function looks smooth, you can switch the orientation to landscape. All good things. Kobo has already announced that it's developing an app for the iPad. Uh, so what's up with the Kobo reader, then? The Kobo reader that is supposed to incite the second coming?
  • It's locked down: Thanks to Lifehacker for pointing this out. You'd better download all the apps you can get because otherwise, you, the user, has no control over what's installed on the iPad. Also, apps have to be approved so a perfectly good reader app could be rejected if Apple doesn't like how it jives.
  • E-book pricing: Other than having awesome visual appeal, the iBookstore has cut a deal with publishers that they could previously only dream about when dealing with Amazon. See, because iBookstore sells e-books in the ePub format, the publishers themselves can directly format and set prices for their e-books. This means that Apple just takes a cut of what's sold. This means more control! Publishers like control. Amazon's deal is that they buy files from publishers, convert them to their own format and re-sell them at the rock bottom price of $9.99. Good for the average reader, bad for publishers trying to make a buck. Flavorwire asks, quite correctly: is this eventually going to cannibalize hardcover sales, as happened with iTunes?
  • ePub format: See above. No word, though, yet as to whether the iBooks app will also read other file formats, PDFs etc. or if e-books bought through the iBookstore can be viewed on other e-readers.
  • iBookstore in Canada?: The iPad starts shipping internationally in 60 days but on the Canadian Apple site, there's no mention of iBookstore or iBooks. When will deals be inked internationally?
  • Price: $499 US is pricier than most netbooks and e-readers but then again, Apple has always made bank based on its products' quality and features, not price competitiveness.
  • As publishing's savior: Oh no. Nono. The iPad is definitely something we haven't seen before. It has a colour screen and will support enriched e-books and it combines the functions of an e-reader and a netbook. But, as the NYT says, it's just a "vessel" and it's up to publishers to make it work, IF that is even possible. Enhanced e-books are muchos expensive to produce. And also, you can't just add some video and links to an e-book and say it's a better product. Paper books are seamless to use. Even the best reader app, enhanced content and all, can't measure up to that. Yet. Frankly, I was more excited by the NYT app than the iBooks app. A good balance between interactivity and a pleasant layout seems to have been struck. Publishers should watch this one closely.
More Discussion:
The Guardian: the wait is over but is it the future of media?
Globe and Mail: why old media love Apple's newest thing
NYT: the media machine that opens up a new front
Cult of Mac: We're at the starting line

Commentary by Publishing Peeps:


I Heart Monster said...

Good point about ePub. I also read that since there is a Kindle app for iPhone, there will probably be a Kindle app for iPad... thus making it multi-format for those who want to switch from their Kindle.

I myself just don't get it. I'm with Lifehacker, and won't buy one.

Julie said...

I love the idea of E-readers for the purpose of traveling and commuting. When I went to Guatemala this summer an e-reader would have been a god send. However, when I am just at home, I like just having a plain book. I like the feel of it and turning the pages and easily looking back through the book. I also like to be nosey and see what other people are reading, which can't be done when they have an e-reader. I'm a book stalker! If I do get an e-reader I think I'll pass on the Ipad for now. It does look really cool for other purposes, but just not something that's necessary. Thanks for the post!

B.Kienapple said...

Hmm Amazon would probably not allow a Kindle app for their competitor's device I would think but we'll see. I think for someone looking for a multi-functional device, not just an e-reader, this is pretty perfect, or for someone looking to read 4-colour books electronically. Myself, I feel traditional e-readers (e-ink in b&W) are not functional enough.

Heather said...

I think I'll probably stick to my Sony Reader. I hope, though, that the iPad doesn't mean that I won't be able to get ebooks for my reader. Although, in theory, I should...if the iBookstore sells in epub, the Reader should take it...right?

B.Kienapple said...

Heather - in theory yes but we'll have to wait for this theory to be tested to see.


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