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Summary:

When we did the first version of this chart heading into the 2009 holiday sales season, four contenders — including the unexpected Barnes &…

Apple iPad iBook Store
photo: Tricia Duryee

When we did the first version of this chart heading into the 2009 holiday sales season, four contenders — including the unexpected Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) Nook — were set to crowd the instant-download e-reader field that Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) had to itself for the last two years. Within weeks it already had changed: the iRex missed its 2009 ship date, PlasticLogic released more info on the Que, Amazon kept fine tuning the Kindle, and more e-readers flooded the zone at CES.

Then, the landscape tilted again Wednesday with the beyond-hyped unveiling of the Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iPad, the tablet designed to be a better e-reader within a multipurpose media approach. Sure, some of the other devices offer the ability to listen to MP3 music and Kindle users can surf some elementary web waves. But Apple is the only one claiming to have a device that is as good an e-reader as it is a video player, music center or internet portal. (It’s also the only one where you can still use the platform for other e-readers: both Kindle and Barnes & Noble have iPhone e-book apps and are expected to be on the iPad.)

So how does the iPad stack up against its more single-minded competition? We can’t say yet how it really compares to reading a novel on a Kindle, textbooks on a Kindle DX or business pdfs on a Que. What we can do is lay out the specs and features side by side. (Click on on that link or the image for full-size version.) We’ve limited the comparison to the highest-profile devices that include 3G access and or Wi-Fi as an option. By size, the main competition is the Kindle DX and the upcoming PlasticLogic Que. In the paperback-size division, it’s the Kindle, the Nook and the Sony (NYSE: SNE) Daily Edition.

Update: Many thanks to those who posted or sent in suggestions about how to make this better; we’ve been incorporating many of them in real time. Some suggestions are a matter of interpretation so may not be reflected in this weekend’s updates but we will take them into consideration for future charts.

  1. How about HP’s new Slate?

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  2. Does the HP Slate have a release date? I got the feeling it was a tech demo at the moment.

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    1. Staci D. Kramer Saturday, January 30, 2010

      The HP Slate isn’t being pitched quite the same way. My next chart like this
      may be to compare devices like iPad, the Slate, Lenovo’s seriously cool U1

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  3. Might want to check that chart. Amazon lists over 400k titles for the Kindle now. Also, you have neglected to include a number of file types that can be used on the Kindle. There is also a “convert” process that allows additional types to be used easily.

    K2 also plays Mp3’s and has a built in web browser.

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    1. Staci D. Kramer Saturday, January 30, 2010

      Thanks for pointing out the need to change the title count for Amazon. We
      already list mp3 as a format for K2; ditto for the browser. We were focusing
      primarily on native formats where possible.

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  4. what a sick comparison.

    cant you make enough efforts at paidcontent to make sure that units and parameters are correct

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  5. Barnes and Noble is going to have over a million titles available for Nook. And I really don’t think the iPad should even be compared, no one is going to want to read for hours on end with a backlit screen. You might as well read on your computer.

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  6. What is “open” about the Sony Daily Edition? I’m not aware of a developer SDK of any kind.

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  7. Note: Kindles don’t have WiFi (as indicated in your battery life spec). Also, with the latest firmware update the screens do rotate,

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  8. It seems like your mindset was to start with Kindle’s definition of an e-reader, then add others’ closest efforts. Fair enough; they’re the standard-setter.

    But if you’re going to throw out 95% of multiple-purpose devices’ capabilities such as video, standalone apps and music, why is it relevant that the Kindle plays MP3s and that Amazon has released a toolkit for creating standalone apps? Why is PDF missing from the iPad, when support was announced in the keynote and it’s one of dozens of formats listed on Apple’s tech specs site?

    I understand many of the smaller e-book platforms share third-party DRM that might give you some confidence in being able to read your DRM’d books after your BrandX reader dies and is no longer for sale. That was a killer for the few people who bought Microsoft’s PlaysForSure content: the whole platform imploded at once. But it could be reassuring for people who favor minor market players.

    Finally, this iPad thing is pretty new, but there are some likely guesses that I’ll venture: iBooks will allow some sharing across multiple devices à la iTunes; that it’ll read unencrypted ePubs and PDFs just fine; that thanks to “market evolution,” revenue splits and costs of data transfer will shift rapidly away from Amazon and towards its developers and publishers. You might put in “Stay Tuned” items for how much of a splash the iPad will make, in ways that will dramatically change what’s important in this table.

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  9. Have to agree with Walt French. The comparison is not only between the purpose-built tablets, which some in the media are clinging to like Linus and his blanket. The question is: Which ones have browsers? HTML is the universal format of the moment. Only the iPad on this list accepts it.

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  10. Where is the device that is closest to the future of any e-reader to date? By which I mean Hearst’s Skiff? Also, a backlit screen with no e-ink is a very serious disadvantage for the Apple device, though this point has not yet been grasped by the digerati or the market. It’s only a matter of time, however, until it becomes clear that an e-reader’s job is READING.

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