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The iPad shows up the Kindle; will Apple's iBooks store challenge Amazon?


Apple debuted its long-rumored tablet device in San Francisco today. Head man Steve Jobs presented... the iPad. The name immediately met with Internet derision -- "iTampon" is a top 10 trending term on Twitter -- yet iPad fever doesn't seem to be abating.

The iPad looks like an overgrown iPhone -- a little more than 9 inches of screen space, able to play video and music and games. App developers who'd been given advance notice showed some of the possibilities for the larger-screen iPad. It runs e-mail, a new calendar, maps, iPhoto and iWorks. For those of us with stubby fingers, the on-screen keyboard looks droolworthy.

Oh and yes: ebooks.

Saying that Apple was standing on the shoulders of Amazon's Kindle, Jobs showed off the iPad as ebook reader and a new ebook store, called iBooks. The Kindle mention may have been a backhanded compliment -- putting a slide of the beige-cased, black-and-white, button-laden Kindle on the screen before switching to the elegant full-color iPad showcased the superior design of the Apple device. The much better-looking iPad is priced at $499, a comparable price to the higher-end $489 Kindle DX.

As much of a challenge as the design presents, iBooks may signal a new era in book selling. Although ebooks are available from multiple online retail points, Apple's major centralized ebooks store is the first to present a genuine challenge to Amazon. Five of the six major publishing houses -- Penguin, Harper-Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette Book Group -- have signed on to iBooks. Random House is the lone holdout, so no, you won't be able to read "The Da Vinci Code" on an iPad (at least, not yet).

Additionally, Jobs said Apple is using the open EPub format, whereas Kindle's format is proprietary. Essentially, anyone with requisite coding smarts can make an Epub version of their own book. Smaller publishers, should they be welcomed by Apple, will be able to get in the game relatively easily; many already use EPub for their ebooks. Theoretically, an individual author could create an EPub ebook and publish from home -- could that kind of self-published book also make it into the Apple iBook store?

If so, let's hope that they take advantage of what wasn't demonstrated today. In this Gizmodo video of the demo of reading an ebook on the iPad, Jobs says it can read color photos and video. Video, in a book? That would be useful for instructional books -- say, cooking or gardening. But it would be revolutionary for fiction or works of nonfiction. How exciting to use video in fiction! How could it work, exactly?

And if you can embed video and pictures in text and use an ereader, what's to separate books from Web pages? Will what we think of as "a book" begin to change?

That's a question for another day. The real nail-biter of Jobs' presentation was the cost. The iPad comes with simple Wi-Fi or with higher-speed 3G; the entry-level Wi-Fi device, with 16GB of memory, is $499. There is a 32GB iPad and one with 64GB of memory, which, with 3G, will retail for $829. The iPad will hit stores in June or July, will, like the iPhone, use AT&T networks, and there will be no contract, just a monthly fee for data. No contract, perhaps, because the iPad, despite all its wonderful bells and whistles, is not a phone.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Steve Jobs demonstrates the iPad. Credit: Tony Avelar / Bloomberg

Comments () | Archives (21)

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Will VOIP from the Ipad be limited over the 3G network?

Shows up?

Costing more (whether you compare the regular Kindle or the DX), charging more for books, being backlit, having a bookstore as an app on my computer....

I'm not sure "Shows up" is the right phrasing.

"Additionally, Jobs said Apple is using the open EPub format, whereas Kindle's format is proprietary. Essentially, anyone with requisite coding smarts can make an Epub version of their own book"

The same can be said of creating mobi files, which are completely readable on the Kindle. Yes Amazon's version of Mobi is proprietary but mobi in general isn't and works fine.

I'm not so sure why the ipad would kill the kindle and other e-readers. The kindle, the nook, and most of the other e-readers use e-ink display. Personally I could never read more than a few pages at a time on a regular computer screen -- my eyes turn to mush. The kindle's display mimics printed pages and make it easier to read.

Yes e-ink looks 'old-fashioned' next to the ipad's display but I'll be very interested in seeing hands-on reviews comparing reading experiences between the two devices. If the ipad somehow allowed both e-ink and it's regular display, I think that would be truly revolutionary.

I could be totally off the mark on this, but I'm not sure why you would want video interspersed with fiction. First, the web already allows you to do this, and has allowed it for about the past 15 years so it's certainly nothing new. But more importantly, if you are truly engrossed in excellent fiction writing, why would you want to interrupt that experience? Isn't that immersion the whole point of reading a good book?

My Kindle has free 3G access. iPad requires you to pay for 3G coverage. Furthermore, you only have access to AT&T's terrible 3G network!! UUGG... no thanks.

It could replace the Kindle for light readers who only read indoors under subdued lighting. Also magazines and newspapers will benefit from the color graphics. I don't see this as serious competition for Kindle - at least not for avid readers. This is certainly an innovative device and needs to be taken seriously as an Internet/multimedia device.

I agree totally with Bob. I think e-ink is essential. And if we start inserting video into our fiction we loose the ability to use our imaginations and visualize the story in our heads. What fun is that?

I've been delaying on purchasing the kindle until this announcement, and now I've just ordered it.

I've tried reading ebooks on laptops and outdoors its a disaster, the kindle has definately got that bit right, is cheaper and battery lasts a week. and it does read pdf's. Like one post said who wants or needs fancy graphics in a novel!

Wonderful the ipad may be its certainly no kindle killer.

This article presumes many things about the iPad and like most of the media, is very biased towards Apple. I have used Apple products for the past 20 years and my iPhone is one of my favorite devices of all time. With that said, I think Apple really missed the mark with the iPad (enough of these "i"s - it was cool in the late nineties, now growing very tired). I do not think Bezos needs to worry too much about the iPad's digital book market share. Once people get their hands on this and actually try reading a book (not a blog, not a news article), they will understand the beauty and necessity of e-ink.

As others have said, embedding video/audio content into books takes away from the wonderful experience of reading. Our society has moved incredibly fast into this multimedia culture and less and less people are actually reading books. The iPad will only perpetuate this trend.

i needs a Pixel Qi hybrid switchable screen to be a contender to upset the Kindle, and even if it does that Amazon.com will still be the king of Booksales, as they are already making smoke signals that show their preparedness to "open up"

I wonder how many people will pay the same price to own a Kindle just for e-ink technology as versus to own a Apple tablet PC?

I also have been putting off getting a Kindle. Not due to reading issues, but to the fact that I never really own my books. They are hostage to the whim of Amazon. Sure I can get mobi books, but not from Amazon. I will not get a Kindle - if I'm going to spend $500 it had better do more than be a electronic book.
You folks who say that ipad is not a book reader miss the point. Apple did not start selling it as a book reader - only this article did that.
Apple started out selling ipod, photos, video, games, big keyboard, masses of applications, real wordprocessing and presentations, more games, GPS, full color etc etc. Books came last.
IPad is not a Kindle killer - it moves the market away from where Kindle is currently to a place it cannot follow.
Kindle is about to become marginalized just like the first mp3 players where after ipod came out.
Lets check back by Christmas and see if ipad has sold more than all versions of Kindle to see who has got it right - I'm betting it isn't Kindle and that Apple really will leverage what happened with iphone......
Oh and Jason, where did it say ATT only - or did you miss the "all 3G iPads are sold unlocked" part?

This won't touch Kindle sales; actually it should help promote the idea of a third device, and I think once people get more familiar with a Kindle, they'll buy more Kindles. It's hard to state the beauty and ease of reading on a Kindle to someone who has only read on backlit screens. E-ink is the wave of the future, a tablet computer is, well, so 2001.

I agree with the above comments. My first thoughts about the iPad vs. Kindle were: 1. What about the free wireless 3G connection (I am in Australia so that's pretty essential given the crazy rates they charge here for mobile connections), 2. what about e-ink? I don't want to read on a tablet PC or a PC. My eyes will bleed after minutes. and finally 3. My Global Kindle (the small version) only costs $280. That's enough paid just to read books. I won't go for $600-800 even if you can download music and work etc.

the bottomline is iPad is a cool laptop but is no Kindle. Unless they start packing e-ink and free 3G wireless, forget it. Kindle (and Nook) remains the best e-reader.

We've been publishing mBooks (multimedia pdfs) for almost a decade. We're anxious to learn whether the iPad will display these natively or whether we need "an app for that."

The device isn't much use as a serious reader (good for causal, and other uses and books are a bonus), but the big winners could be Sony...

The current distribution and management mechanisms for epub are terrible -sony's software sucks. Users don't want a reader - they want to READ BOOKS in whatever format. EPub integration into iTunes for purchasing is the key step - the iTunes store made it easy to buy music, which in turn made people buy ipods. Now they will make it easy to buy books. Right now its easier to buy a REAL book online than an epub one. I love my sony reader as a device, but it sits idle - apple might actually change that.

The other exciting thing is iLife/iWorks. It's a save bet that Pages and the rest of the apple apps will get ePub support in the next release. That's a big game changer - try making an ebook with current software! You'll be able to export iphoto albums straight to epub - perhaps even "print" to epub from ANY Mac app...

That's far more exciting than another reader app running on a fancy notebook.

There are so many opportunities in self-publishing of people's books and I hope that APPLE take a step to further press with ePub advantage. In their wisdom they should use Pages from iWork for iPad to create and save as eBook. Hope they will do this and let the revolution in publishing to start!

I'll be right there buying an iPad at the first opportunity. I'm also a Kindle owner, and as much as I love the iPad, I'm not sure it will replace Kindle. My Kindle is a lot smaller and certainly less delicate. I toss it in my handbag and it's with me all of the time wherever I go. I know I wouldn't toss an iPad in my purse because it would get scratched and it's too large. Also, what sold me on my Kindle is the liquid ink technology. With that, I have no eyestrain, while I have difficulty reading long-term on a computer.

The iPad is not a Phone? Of course it is: The Apple SDK Developers Kit that was released yesterday includes the opportunity to include Apps that run IP-Telephony Software like Skype outside a Wifi - Zone - just using 3G data packets. Who says the iPad is not a phone?!? Well, the matter is, that you do not have to use a provider to pay you per minute to telephone - for 29,95 you can phone the whole world - all included!

The big question is, can iBooks read ePub files from other sources? Baen and Fictionwise already sell books in unencrypted ePub. Further, you can make ePubs from your own documents. If it can't read those, it's a no-go.

I have the Sony Ereader and love it. I had it 2 yrs b-4 it died. I invested on 2 yr war. and it covered it with only 23 days left. I got a refurbished one in it's place in 2 wks. I would love to buy the Ipad and will when the Reader bites the dust. I have bought over 400 books and they are EPub. I never thought I would love to read so many books. I thought about the Kindle but it looks really cheap for some reason.

iBooks flipping rules. Kindle is xo'd. long live jobs


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