It’s been a few weeks now since the Apple iPad announcement; a 9.7-inch multi-purpose tablet with native Book, Magazine and Newspaper options. Although Apple hasn’t released this as a dedicated eBook reader or as a direct competitor to popular eReaders such as the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader, in essence, it is an eReader nonetheless.
So, the iPad is an eReader, and one that reads not only books and newspapers but web pages, emails and numerous other electronic documents. It can also do the stuff that an iPhone and iPod Touch can do – running thousands of third party applications from the iTunes App store. For this article though I’d like to focus on the book aspects, especially in relation to the EPUB eBook format.
There were rumours abound weeks before Apple’s announcement that they’d been discussing with publishers and newspapers to get their content for a new Apple device. Most of this content will be accessible from the upcoming Apple iBooks Store and there should be plenty to choose from as Apple have brought onboard big names such as Penguin, HarperCollins and Macmillan.
The new iBooks store will be integrated in true iTunes style and with a 3G iPad option; you won’t even have to worry about logging into Wi-Fi hotspots.
From what’s shown in the videos circulating the internet, the iBooks application seems to have typical viewing options (font sizes) and also that life-like page turn feature, though to be honest I still can’t figure out why this kind of gimmick is considered so cool. That whole drag a page, swipe your finger (Sony Touch) feature is fun for the first 10 minutes but quite frankly, I don’t sit there when reading a paper book being thrilled at the ingenuity of how a paper page turns, so why should it be any different with an eBook. Just let me tap the screen/press a button and give me the next page by the time I get my eyes to the top of the screen, thankyouverymuch.
People have talked about the iPad as being a game changer or an E-Ink Killer (Kindle/Sony). Well, I’m not sure any of the current E-Ink developers believed they’d reached the pinnacle of electronic mobile reading – E-Ink eReaders were always going to evolve and become more multi-purpose – but there are still advantages of these over the iPad with power consumption and reading longevity being two.
E-Ink is extremely low power and thus allows usage of up to two weeks before a recharge is needed. Also, sitting for hours on end with no interruptions from IM’s and incoming email, plus a very paper like screen, are very pleasant experiences I can assure you.
We’ll have to wait until its released before we know the exact power consumption, but the iPad will probably give around ten hours of play, and that’s highly likely with anything and everything turned off and maybe even a low backlit screen.
Okay, so this isn’t an iPad review and much of what I’ve said here is all personal preference anyway. I guess the real question you want form me is;
Does the iPad Support EPUB eBooks?
The quick answer is, yes.
The longer answer would also be yes, but there might well be some caveats here.
The Apple iPad native eBook format is EPUB; Steve Jobs said this himself at the announcement in San Francisco. This of course makes sense as many, if not most publishers have been working toward creating their content in this format, thankfully Apple haven’t forced the providers to come up with yet another format.
EPUB is lucky in some respects; it came about at a time when eBooks was just starting to become more main stream and this gave publishers the ability to focus [mostly] on just one eBook format. Beneficial for them and the end user.
It seems that there are really two questions regarding the iPad and the EPUB format.
One. What kind of DRM will it have?
The iPad EPUB eBooks will have DRM and it certainly won’t be the Adobe flavour. A recent announcement says that Apple is dusting off their old Fair Play DRM that was used for music in their iTunes stores up until just a year or so ago. This means you’ll not be able to use these books on other eReaders – you buy from Apple, you use on Apple – at least that’s the way it seems at the moment. Once the iPad is out there, perhaps we’ll see some solutions to get around that.
I should note that I don’t know enough on Apple’s Fair Play DRM to know if other vendors can implement it or whether this will affect their ability to use the Adobe DRM side-by-side with Apple’s.
Perhaps in the long term Apple will turn out to be instrumental in getting DRM off eBooks completely and a couple of years or three down the line this issue won’t matter any more. We can but hope.
Two. Can you Download or Buy from Sources other than the iBooks Store?
Will I be able to browse the epubBooks.com website, click the download button and have my books open in the iBooks reading application?
This is a really big question and one which is still open. My gut feeling is that the answer will be no.
I’ve yet to hear if Apple will allow competing eBook apps to be ported to the iPad. Perhaps the eReader developers themselves know that answer, but the Apple TC’s will forbid them to talk, so everything is hush hush for the moment.
If apps such as Stanza are allowed onto the iPad then I think all the above questions will be answered in a positive light.
The iPad will be out there in a couple of months so then we’ll know for certain the future of reading with the Apple iPad.
[UPDATE: EPUBs from epubBooks.com can now be added to iBooks and there are now plenty of other Reading apps for you to use. You can read more about this over on my Apple iPad review page.]
Apple iPad: Quick Facts
- Released Date: Late March 2010 and April 2010 for 3G option
- Price: Currently $499 for the 16GB model
- Memory: 16/32/64GB
- Multi-Touch 9.7 inch screen (1024×768)
- iBooks Store for books, magazines and newspapers
- EPUB book format
- Apple Fair Play DRM
- Various other electronic content
- Video, Music, Games
- Untold apps providing eMail, Calendars, Maps, Photos, etc.
- Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
- Pre-paid, no-contract, unlocked 3G connectivity (optional upgrade)
- External Keyboard Dock
- Apple or other standard Bluetooth keyboards