image The Apple Event is over. I followed three live blogs: Ars Technica’s (which is hard to get into, being at capacity), Wired’s, and Gizmodo’s (which has plenty of pictures). There is plenty of e-book-related detail, including a New York Times iPad-native app and the new iBooks app and store.

I will hit the technical details first, then cover e-book matters in detail below the jump.

Technical Details

The interesting facts about the new iPad are being quoted in detail on dozens of news sources, so I will just summarize: it is basically like an iPod Touch only bigger, with a 9.7”, 1024×768 @ 132 pixels-per-inch screen, 16, 32, or 64 gigs of storage, reportedly 10 hours of battery life and a month of standby power. The complete tech specs are now available on Apple’s website.

Device price is to be $499/$599/$699 for 16/32/64-gig capacity (add $130 to each price point for a 3G-capable model), and it begins shipping in 60 days (90 days for the 3G model). (Go here to sign up to be notified when it is available to order.) This is an iPod Touch-style price: no contracts or obligations factor into it.

This is an interesting price point, to be sure: for twice the price of a $259 2-gig Kindle 2, or just a little more than the $430 4-gig Kindle DX, you get a color device with four to eight times the storage and much more flexibility. Though unlike with the Kindle, the iPad’s 3G data plans cost extra.

Wifi and Data Plans

All devices will have 802.11n wifi, and some will have 3G capacity as well. Apple and AT&T will offer two optional pre-paid 3G data plans for the 3G model: a 250-megabyte plan for $14.99 per month, or an unlimited plan for $29.99 per month. Both plans will also allow free use of AT&T wifi hotspots, such as those at Starbucks.

Unlike most wireless device plans, these optional plans will be pre-paid with no contract lock-in, and can be enabled or cancelled at any time from a control panel on the device itself. The device will be sold unlocked to permit possible use with other carriers.

Existing iPhone apps will work run at native resolution in the middle of the screen, or can be pixel-doubled to run in low-resolution full-screen. A new iPhone SDK to add native iPad compatibility comes out today.

Papers and Books

image Early in the event, an iPad-native New York Times application was demonstrated, which works pretty much like the version for the iPhone only larger.

But later in the event, Steve Jobs showed a photo of the Kindle on the slideshow and said, “Amazon has done a great job of pioneering this, but we’re going to stand on their shoulders and go a step further.”

He then introduced iBooks, which bears a suspicious resemblance to the iPhone’s “Classics” app—stored books appear on a handsome wooden bookshelf, and the pages look like a “real paper book”. iBooks will launch with titles from publishers Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, MacMillan, and Hachette.

iBooks will feature the same instant-buy-and-download capacity we have come to expect from the Kindle or third-party iPhone e-book applications. It reportedly uses the ePub format, though there is no word on whether its DRM will be compatible with third-party ePub readers.

There is also no word on whether an iBooks app will be available for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Publisher Price Points

According to an article from the Wall Street Journal that David Rothman instant-messaged to me, Apple has asked publishers to set hardcover prices at “$12.99 and $14.99, with fewer titles offered at $9.99.” As with apps in its store, Apple would take 30% of the book price, with publishers getting 70%.

As the Journal points out, this is significantly different from the publishing industry’s usual 50%-of-list-price model, where a $28.95 hardcover book is sold to Amazon for $14.50 then Amazon can set whatever price it wishes.

A $14.99 Apple e-book will only net the publisher $10.49. But, on the other hand, that is still more than they would make if they had to price their books so Amazon could sell at $9.99 and make a profit.

Duplicate Functionality?

There is still no word on what this means for other e-book vendors in the iPhone store. Will eReader, Stanza, Kobo, and other apps be dropped from the store, or have new iPad-native versions refused?

Certainly Apple has been reluctant to allow apps that “duplicated functionality” in the past, and these stores do not earn Apple anything—unlike its 30% take on iBooks. Still, it would seem like a shoddy way to reward apps that helped them sell their iPod Touch and iPhone to begin with—not to mention cause angry revolts from consumers who have already invested in e-book libraries from those vendors.

On the other hand, there have been rumors that both Barnes & Noble and Amazon are bringing their respective iPhone e-book reading apps to the Apple tablet. (And a New York Times report today (found via TechFlash) suggests Amazon seems to believe it will be able to sell books on the iPad too.) If these are true, then perhaps Apple will brook competition to its iBooks store after all.

We will certainly provide additional coverage as more information becomes available.

(Pictures thumbnailed from Gizmodo liveblog.)


  1. So far, I have not heard from Apple about participating in iBookStore. Any other small publishers out there have other information? I certainly don’t want to be pushed into offering eBooks at the $14.99 range.

    Wonder if the 30/70% was driven by Amazon’s recent announcement, or the other way around?

    Rob Preece

  2. Well, it doesn’t cure cancer or even dandruff but at $499 its a nice large-format iPod touch. Generic IPS LCD screen; nothing fancy, keeps price down. I’d be skeptical about the battery life claims, though; 1 GHz ARM architecture + 10: screen + half inch thickness + wifi = 10 hrs? Maybe for ebook-ing…

    Best thing about it is it offers a nice target for the product I *really* want to see; a slate netbook running Win7 at $299. (ACER, are you listening?) 😉

    Other than putting a bit of downwards price pressure on the Kindle DX and Sony 900 it shouldn’t put much of a dent on either the Kindle or the Adobe ecosystems.

    I’d like to hear what the story is on DRM; I have a sneaking suspicion its not Adept.

    Its a fair contender; let the shoes start dropping…

  3. The fact that they’re using EPUB is good, but I’d definitely like to hear about what type of DRM scheme they’re using (if anything, but I assume they are). I imagine that will put some additional pressure on Amazon to convert their store.

  4. “A $14.99 Apple e-book will only net the publisher $10.49. But, on the other hand, that is still more than they would make if they had to price their books so Amazon could sell at $9.99 and make a profit.”

    50% of hardcover list price is *insane*. Every actually printed book costs real money, and most of them are returned unsold. After the initial, trivial cost of formatting up an ebook (most of which is spent with the pointless DRM), every additional copy costs publishers *nothing*. Zero. Every ebook sale is gravy.

    This is like when CDs were introduced, and the record companies suckered people into paying *more* for them even though they were cheaper to make than LPs. Because look, shiny! Digital! Woo!

  5. Now both Apple and Microsoft have pissed me off … What the heck is so revolutionary about their tablets if their screens are backlit only! They’re not going beyond Kindle yet. I still have a craving for Notion Ink’s tablet. Apple or Microsoft (Hewlett-Packard) are not doing anything useful for me

  6. Screen resolution was less than I hoped for, something in the range of 1024 x 768.

    Personally, I just want a high quality, low price, large screen ebook reader. The only thing the iPad does for me is add a little competition into the marketplace and, hopefully, drive down the price of other readers.

  7. I checked and, yes, the screen is 1024×768. This is NOT high resolution for a nearly 10″ screen. My first generation Kindle is 800×600 in just 5 inches.

    As a READER one of my primary desires is for font clarity. This means that small fonts, subscripts, superscripts and ornamentals should be crisp and clear. At 1024×768 over 10″ the clarity will not be optimal, in addition it’s a standard screen and will suffer from some degree of flicker.

    iPad seems to be a device for iPod users who want to upgrade to the newest and shiniest. It does not look like an ideal device for somebody, like me, who primarily want an ebook reader.

  8. I’m underwhelmed with the iPad as an ebook reader given the pricing of Apple’s iBook store. But the ultimate verdict must await the arrival of actual ipads in customers (or at least trusted reviewer’s) hands. The screen seems very shiny and reflective but who knows. Remember the Nook…

  9. I like the device, and think it has a lot of potential. I commented here about a year ago, to the effect that people publishing to the App store (either by dedicated book executables, or readers that accessed a store elsewhere) were in a very risky position, as Apple was likely to grab the market if it looked viable; notwithstanding Jobs’ comments disparaging reading (remember, he flat out lied about Apple not being interested in solid state iPods, too).

    Make no mistake, Apple is serious about this being used for reading. They are tied to current technology which means the IPS display because of the price point they want to hit, the volumes they intend to achieve, and the other functions they need the device to perform.

    But they’ve gone with a 4:3 display, this is because they see reading in portrait mode (either web pages or ebooks) as a major use of the device, and widescreen displays, while good for media, are not good for reading in either orientation.

    I think Apple will leave the status quo WRT the touch/iphone, but shut third party apps and book sales out of the iPad; all purchases will have to go through the iBook store, which will also be available for the touch/iphone. If people look to the future, they’ll prefer the iBook format because they’ll be able to use it on large and small devices, so people will move away from formats that only play on the small devices.

    I think this will also fragment the market and formats even more initially, and consolidation will happen as Apple becomes a major, if not the default, gatekeeper for book purchases, just as they are for music today.

    Aside from reading, this would make a fine photo frame; bet Kodak will have an app available to optimise it doing that.

  10. OHHH, the wailing and gnashing of teeth on the internet today! i for one am pretty dang happy with this device. i wanted a touchscreen ebook reading device at a decent size screen, and that’s what this is for me. the rest is pure gravy. the fact that i can get the low-end wifi version for $500 just makes it all the better.

  11. On screen resolution:
    Apple’s specsheet lists it at 130dpi
    6″ Eink screens run at 167 dpi
    5″ Eink screens run at 200 dpi

    So for pure black-n-white text eink will be technically sharper. But image quality depends on more than just straight resolution; grayscale and antialiasing matter.

    Now, I don’t know if Apple has licensed Cleartype or developed an equivalent copy, but Cleartype anti-aliased fonts use sub-pixel addressing which can be equivalent to triple the pixel resolution, which would be about 400dpi. If we were talking a Windows ltablet running MS Reader (like my vitage TC1100) I would be confident that the LCD would be producing sharper text despite the lower specs. On an Apple product I wouldn’t bet the farm but I suspect it will be up to par…

    Its really a cost trade-off thing: 10″ XGA screens are a lot cheaper than HD screens and the touchscreen adds cost so something had to give. That’s why the OLED dreams turned out to be just dreams. Similarly, the lack of antiglare saves costs and IPS LCD tech is good for video, but its primary advantage (viewing angle) is wasted on a tablet device, so odds are they got them cheap since 4×3 panels don’t have the demand that 16×9 panels do.

    Since the thing is 60-90 days off there really is no way to tell how good the display is really going to be. All we can say is: it is nothing special.

  12. It won’t ‘dominate’ the ebook market. From the Apple website: “iBooks available in the U.S. only.” It won’t even dominate the US market either, as its book prices will be higher than those of the Kindle or Sony. This is not a Kindle-killer. It is *maybe* a netbook-killer that happens to have the ability to also read books, sometimes, depending on where you live 🙂 Just like any number of other devices (some even by Apple) primarily do other things but also can read books.

    I may be interested in one of these as a netbook replacement; I am not knocking it as a device per se. But I am frankly shocked that people are talking about it as if the rest of the ebook market should just give up now and nobody has noticed the fairly salient detail that it’s US-only.

  13. It’s a nice device; it is not nirvanna for reading. It does not “kill” the dedicated e-reader category. For e-reading, the $259 Kindle, which includes 3G wireless, and a very crisp screen, the iPad is not a contender. The cheapest 3G version is $629 + min $15/mth wireless subscription. Yes, it’s colour; but b&w has its virtues for the majority of genuine e-reading. The Kindle is not a substitute for surfing the web; it’s a substitute for reading a paperback.

    And two more things, briefly: weight. The Kindle is 10 oz … the iPad is 1.5 pounds. People have noticed the “significant” issue with the Nook at 12 oz …. And battery life: 10 hours vs 2 weeks. It means always on the lookout for a fresh charge. When my Kindle took a holiday with me last month, it didn’t need a charge in the full 10 days.

    So, not to disparage the iPad in any way: but it’s not an e-reader. It happens to e-read (if I may put it that way) in the same way that a smartphone is a camera. Yes, it can do it: but you’ll want your “real” holiday snaps taken with a dedicated camera. The iPad is trying to play in an interesting middle-space between netbooks/laptops and smartphones. I may wonder aloud if the iPad is a solution in search of a problem ….

  14. Fanboy speaking! This is the beginning of information and entertainment gathering devices. Yes it does ebooks, yes it does newspapers, yes it does video, yes it does photos, yes it does basic personal information development (word processing), yes it does ticket buying, yes it does multi media textbooks and yes it does baseball cards during baseball games. Everything we can already do.

    Now all we have to do is sit back and see what happens in the next six months. We’ve been through six months of heavy duty speculation, we’ve got two to three months before the public gets them in their hands and then we’ll have about three months of public real time testing. Then it will be time for Christmas giving – and if Steve Jobs is right, he’ll be able to sell many more of this thing than any present day information device has sold. If I’m right, Santa will have a very full bag this year. Wait ’til your teenager decides it’s the greatest gaming device. And the best critics will be the numbers in the Apple stores.

  15. 50% of hardcover list price is *insane*. Every actually printed book costs real money, and most of them are returned unsold. After the initial, trivial cost of formatting up an ebook (most of which is spent with the pointless DRM), every additional copy costs publishers *nothing*. Zero. Every ebook sale is gravy.

    Bull. Did you think that the words somehow dropped out of the sky and into the layout person’s inbox by magic? Books are written by authors, and authors expect to get paid for their work; if e-books become a major edition along with hardcover and paperback, they’re going to be paying the same kind of per-copy royalty as the others. Not to mention, if e-books become a larger and larger share of the sales pie, they’re going to have to start shouldering more and more of the fixed costs of editing, promotion… reproduction and distribution are only part of the cost story.

    I think Apple will leave the status quo WRT the touch/iphone, but shut third party apps and book sales out of the iPad; all purchases will have to go through the iBook store, which will also be available for the touch/iphone. If people look to the future, they’ll prefer the iBook format because they’ll be able to use it on large and small devices, so people will move away from formats that only play on the small devices.

    I don’t see this happening. Apple has repeatedly stated over the years that the various iMedia stores are run on an approximately break-even basis, as a tool to promote hardware sales; every back-of-the-envelope estimation I’ve done over the years has suggested this is essentially true. (To give an example, when the iTMS hit the 1 billion song mark, a quick estimate suggested that in a single quarter, Apple had made at least ten times as much profit [and note: *profit*] selling iPods as the iTMS had made in its entire existence. At that time, IIRC, iTMS had been open for about 2.5-3 years.)

    Hardware sales are where the big profit is for Apple, and selling more iPads takes precedence over ancillary revenue from e-book sales. If having Stanza, Bookshelf, Kindle, and the B&N eReader apps help with that goal, Apple has much more reason to leave them in than to kick them out.

  16. As far as font clarity goes, Apple do use their version of Cleartype sub pixel rendering, which makes a huge difference in clarity, so 1024*768 isn’t a dealbreaker by any means. Although, Apple in their subpixel rendering follow the font design scrupulously, which means the individuality of a font is preserved at the expense of some clarity (whereas Cleartype favours sharp edges and fonts lose some character).

    If Apple have written their own ePub rendering engine (highly likely given their fractious relationship with Adobe) then we might get some attention paid to little details because they certainly understand presentation. Hopefully iBook app will be available for iPhone as well…

  17. Looking through what is changed in the iPhone O/S 3.2 there are two things that look good for ebooks. Apps can register and use their own fonts (before you were limited to the preinstalled ones). Apps can also publish shared folders that appear on host computer when connected – making it easy to drop content into each app. Add our own ePubs to iBook/Stanza easily!

  18. @Christo: Thanks for the tip about Apple’s “Cleartype” equivalent. It explains why folks like reading on the Ipod low-res screen.

    Bottom line: the iPad should most likely be an adequate indoors ebook reader.

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