I can’t stop watching the iPad video over and over. But how will this device work as an eBook reader, and what do eBook producers need to know?
The iPad is (partly) designed to elevate eBooks to the next level, and it’s really the first practical, portable incarnation of a reader designed to take advantage of what I’ve been calling “next generation eBooks”. (Despite the fact that ‘eBook reader’ is pretty far down on the list of all the apps and features of this device, long after video and web surfing.) This means total integration of my “Three M’s of eBooks”, which are: multimedia, modular, and mobile.
As eBook creators, here’s what we need to consider as we prepare to launch eBooks for this elegant new platform;
eBooks are no longer just applications, as they have been since their adoption of books into the iTunes app store in late December 2008. eBooks are managed through eBook reader applications like iBook, the fully integrated eBook reader in the iPad, (!!), which offers books in the ePub format. This format is also supported by readers like Lexcycle’s Stanza, Mobipocket, and Adobe Digital Editions. iBook will allow you to purchase, download and read books wirelessly, right from the device, without the connection of a computer.
We don’t know what the selection of books will be like in the US-only (for now) iBooks store. Will they eventually have an inventory similar to Amazon? The publishers reportedly offering books in the store include; Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette, but who knows about others.
Neither do we know what sort of specs developers will have to deal with, but we can surmise that it will be similar to Kindle, as the iBook store will support books in the “re-flowable” ePub format.
The display of an ebook will be more like an actual book, as seen briefly in the video. Page flipping is more natural, and perhaps to take advantage of the superior screen, the format will expand to allow producers to control more things like font styles, embedded graphics and so on, but still allow the user to control things like zoom and font size. We’ll have to see the finer points of this.
We don’t know what support iBooks will have for independent publishers and self-publishing Authors. Kindle is relatively kind to self-pubs, (compared to some retailers that will remain unnamed) and Apple has a great history of inviting in independent iPod app developers, so let’s hope their relationship with independents through iBooks will also be a good one.
Kindle books will apparently still work, as the iPad claims that is will still be compatible with all the iPhone and iPod apps, including Stanza and the Kindle app. However, apps designed for the iPod and iPhone will only display as a small part of the screen, so books read through existing apps won’t take advantage of the new screen size, which is rather dumb, if you ask me.
More apps mean more eBook formats, such as multimedia PDF’s and so on. But since Flash support has not existed up until now on any Apple devices, (Apple is totally *not* buds with Adobe – like, whatever, just get over it…) we still won’t see the full potential of all that a “next generation” ebook could be without embedded flash in PDF’s. In other words, it’s still not likely to display all that a multimedia PDF would if you opened it on your PC.
We don’t yet know what role DRM will play in this new iBook universe. It’s pretty tough to imagine Apple allowing eBooks to download in a DRM-free manner, even as an option, but you never know. Apple has surprised us before. Many, many times before.
Books can possibly be more than just pages, because with a beautiful display like that available to us, we can really get creative when it comes to adding multimedia content, or adding value to book bundles with things like audio content and printable extras all zipped into a friendly package.
Yes, there are still plenty of big question marks. But, I know I’m going to seriously consider purchasing an iPad for myself. I’ve been waiting for the release of this device to make up my mind about a portable eBook reader that I can really live with.
But no matter what, I can’t wait to start developing eBooks for this thing!