The iPad as an Ebook Reader

Posted on January 29, 2010

You will be able to read ebooks on Apple's new iPad. During his keynote presentation on Wednesday, Steve Jobs touted Apple's new iPad as a great device for reading ebooks. He complimented Amazon.com's Kindle and said they are going to "stand on their shoulders" with the iPad.

The iPad comes with an iBooks app that displays your available books in a virtual bookshelf. Like other ebook readers, the iPad will offer access to a digital bookstore. Apple says the iPad provides a "high-resolution, LED-backlit screen displays everything in sharp, rich color, so it's easy to read, even in low light." You can see Apple's iBooks software in the video below from appleinsider.com.

So, will current Kindle owner desert the Kindle for the iPad? It seems unlikely. The iPad lacks the e-ink technology that makes digital print on ebook readers look like regular paper. The iPad is also much more expensive than the Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook.

Another big problem with Apple's iPad ebook plans is that Apple plans to charge a lot more for electronic books than Amazon.com does. Amazon.com charges $9.99 or less for most of its digital books, but Apple reportedly plans to charge $14 to $15 for ebooks. That's 40% to 50% more than Amazon.com. Apple plans to throw in extras like videos of interviews with the authors, but we don't believe that most readers are willing to pay extra to see an author interview or visit the author's website, when such content is available online for free. We think the most important point here is price. Remember the book wars over Christmas between Wal-Mart and Amazon.com? Readers want to read Dan Brown's book at the cheapest price available. The publishers want to charge more for ebooks, but that ship has sailed in our opinion. Amazon.com set the base price and in consumers' minds that's now the price for an ebook. Price increases aren't going to fly.

None of this means that people won't read ebooks on their iPad. We love our Kindle and our iPod Touch and read ebooks on both. With WhisperSync Amazon.com figures out what page we stopped on and automatically goes to that page. We just sync up our Kindle and our iPod Touch and we always have our library with us. It just depends on how big our handbag is that day. The iPod Touch is our top choice when we need something that fits in a pocket and we'll have access to WiFi.

Amazon.com has said previously they will make a Kindle app for the iPad. They already have a Kindle app for the iPhone/iPod Touch that is available in the iTunes store. Apple says that "almost all" iPhone apps will be available for the iPad but it is unclear if they are going to let apps be used that compete directly with its new iBooks software. So, will Apple allow iPad users to download a Kindle app? If so, we'll use it. If not, no way. We won't be tied to the iTunes store for expensive books and fewer book selections than Amazon.com offers.

Amazon.com's recent news that the company has sold millions of Kindles means it has an enormous head start on Apple. We really hope that Apple allows customers to use the Kindle app on the iPad. There is no question they will sell more iPads if they do so. This one is a dealbreaker for avid readers, especially in light of the fact that the iPad doesn't allow you to view movies in widescreen format and doesn't allow you to see Flash, which eliminates the ability to watch TV shows on Hulu or play the 70% of games that are created in Flash. This is essentially a portable multimedia device: Apple needs to make it easier -- and cheaper -- for consumers to view media, in order for the device to be a success.

Update: 4-6-10: Some consumers are complaining that the iPad is too heavy for reading. This could change with future models.



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