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Summary:

This week’s e-book column looks at the latest entry in this space — Apple’s iPad and the new iBooks store. What’s the impact to existing e-book content and the competitors that offer it?

sony-reader-in-hands

Our platform focus continues this fine Sunday with the e-Book Echo, our take on the week in the digital publishing world. The biggest news in the e-book world this week was unquestionably the launch of the Apple iPad and the iBooks application. The iPad will do many things, but Apple is touting the iBooks reader and the newly launched iBookstore for purchasing e-books. Apple’s marketing clout will no doubt make an impact on the e-book market, but what do we know about this new reader and store?

Apple made it clear that the content for the iPad will be based on the open-source ePUB format. This sounds good on the surface, but Adobe contacted us to let us know that Apple’s proprietary DRM will not permit iBook content to be used on anything but the iPad. The DRM will not be supported by other readers. This makes for a restriction that Apple has imposed on its own content that perhaps they’d better think about.

It was demonstrated that iPhone apps will work on the larger iPad, so that means that all current third party e-book reader apps will work. It remains to be seen how well they will work on the larger screen of the iPad, but we’ve already heard from some companies who are busy creating iPad versions of existing iPhone readers. It will be interesting to see if Apple permits these new iPad readers in the App Store, as they have a history of not approving apps that compete with core functionality of the devices. While iPhone versions were previously approved, now that Apple has iBooks, these third party readers compete with Apple. This could get predictably sticky if Apple decides to keep these readers from the App Store. If they don’t, the iPad may end up being the reader that supports the widest range of commercial e-book content (Kobo, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, etc…).

Those familiar with the e-book world know that it is a veritable hornet’s nest getting agreements with publishers for content. Separate agreements often have to be forged with each country to allow sales in that locale. Apple has already discovered this dicey situation, as it has become clear that the iBookstore will only be open to U.S. customers initially. The iPads sold outside of the U.S. will not even have the iBooks reader on the device. Surely Apple is working on deals to allow book sales outside the U.S., but it is not clear how long that process may take.

  1. Good article, the thing I’m the most interested to see is if the iPad will allow the Kindle app to be used on the device. That’s what I’ve used on the iPhone and I love it. But I wonder if it will be seen as a conflict since all the books are considerably cheaper than Apple’s e-books.

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  2. I’m in the UK and I’m taking a gamble over the ebook saga, my Sony Reader went on ebay today. If it is true that iBook won’t be on international devices then I will have to make do with Stanza, if they do decide to include it ready for a UK book deal then I should be able to purchase books with a US account which I already have.

    Apple have rejected apps that duplicate core functionality but they have also let ones in. Weather apps, music apps like Spotify thought this is primarily for streaming music it does allow tracks to be downloaded and saved for offline listening so in a way it competes with iTunes and the music app. RSS Player was allowed in once it changed its name from Podcaster. So hopefully they will allow apps like Stanza, eReader and the Kindle app to create a custom iPad version. If not then I will make do with the iPhone version. Stanza’s font can go pretty small to accommodate much more text on screen, so small that it is only just readable on the iPhone, this would be quite readable on the iPad with screen doubling….. if it can render the fonts well enough, we’ll just have to see what happens, these could be exciting times for eBooks or a huge disappointment .

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  3. I think that the iPad is an example of a device that can do eBooks but isn’t an eReader. I think that with a backlit LCD reading on the iPad is going to not be good for people’s eyes.

    Personally, I will wait for something with Pixel Qi. It’s easy on the eyes and performs in light.

    I do think that many people will purchase the iPad to act as a reader only because it’s Apple. I will be extremely surprised if people actually find themeselves using it for reading books after a couple of months.

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  4. It means the price is going up

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  5. On one hand, I can see Apple disallowing other reader platforms, but on the other hand – by golly! What a not-at-at subtle statement of “We just want your money.” I think Aplle may already be to hardpressed to convince the public that they even WANT an iPad right now to do such a thing. They’ll more than likely rely on folk who either believe iBooks is better because it’s Apple and it’s more expensive (you get what you pay for mentality) or possibly on the fact that the major consumer buy the iPad is not an avid reader and somewhat ignorant of the existence of the other readers and would therefor simply buy from iBooks. Same way many still bought from iTunes with DRM while Amazon MP3 was around.

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  6. Scooter McCoy Sunday, January 31, 2010

    The iPad is THE KINDLE KILLER and Amazon knows it !
    This is why Amazon is bowing to MacMillan and Steve WAS RIGHT about pricing all along. BTW, Steve is always right and everybody knows this, so why would anybody in their right mind (Mossberg are you listening) question Mister Jobs.

    What we really need is temporary exclusivity for say the first 60 days of a books launch (similar to the way Blockbuster gets first dibs on movies).
    So I propose that the Big SIX ebook publishers provide all their newly release content EXCLUSIVELY ON THE IPAD only for the first 60 days of release, then they can be allowed to migrate to other ebook retailer. This is only fair since the Kindle has a huge lead in their bookstore and this would level the playing field. Perhaps Hillary can get involved to make this happen soon.

    Stop the ebook wars now. Give iPad first 60 days. After 60 days everyone has equal opportunity. THIS IS A GOOD PLAN.
    The only plan that solves all problems and brings harmony to the e-book world.

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    1. Joshua Blankenship Monday, February 1, 2010

      I thought you were kindly warned already…

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    2. Mmm…. tasty Kool-Aid!

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  7. I am glad that I couldn’t immediately buy an iPad. I would have gotten it without thinking about the future of the reading apps I currently use on my iTouch. I too am concerned that the Kindle app at the very least will not be allowed on the device. So until it is confirmed that other readers can be used, I will wait.

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  8. I think it simply means a lot of e-books will start migrating to the iPad. Time will tell how many but one thing is for sure: the move is on.

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