Penguin-iPad-Books-Apps-1 Fellow NAPCO blog Appletell links to a story on iPadInsider (which in turn links to a story on Paid Content) which offers a first look at what “e-books” might look like on the iPad, courtesy of Penguin. I quotate “e-books” because I don’t think I would necessarily call what Penguin had to display “e-books” in the traditional sense.

Penguin Group’s CEO John Makinson had some interesting things to say at the FT Digital Media & Broadcasting Conference in London:

“We will be embedding audio, video and streaming in to everything we do. The .epub format, which is the standard for ebooks at the present, is designed to support traditional narrative text, but not this cool stuff that we’re now talking about.”

The accompanying video shows a number of so-called “e-books”: interactive children’s books which seem to be the next generation of those battery-powered books where you press shapes to make noises, a medical textbook including video of a beating heart, and a novel, Vampire Academy, with a link to an on-line chat community where readers can talk to other fans and “vote for who is the hottest vampire.”

There is also a travel guide with itinerary-creation tools and GPS map, and Starfinder which seems to be a sort of “augmented reality” app you hold up to the sky and it uses the built-in GPS and compass to indicate what constellations you’re looking at.

The children’s books, the textbook, the travel guide, the astronomy app—I don’t have a problem with these. I’m not sure I’d call them “e-books” per se, but they have their uses. But I’m not sure what earthly use I would have for an e-book with an integrated chat application.

When I’m reading a book, I want to read the book. That is necessarily a solitary activity. In fact, I get rather upset when people interrupt me while I’m reading. Social networking and chat would seem to be the very antithesis of that solitude.

But who knows? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe future generations will eat this kind of thing with a spoon. If there’s one thing history has shown us, it’s how wrong prognostication based on “how things are” often is.


  1. But surely there have been technology-infused products for kids for years – various interactive story books, etc. The point is they are designed to withstand usage by kids. Would you let your toddler play with your iPad? Doubt it.

  2. I wonder if the Penguin app tech guys cringe as the CEO was plugging all of the GPS stuff. My iPhone is GPS-enabled and is darn accurate. The iPad only has “assisted GPS” that means it uses cell towers to figure location (avg. of 500 meter error) or IP address from WiFi network (pretty accurate, but you can’t travel).

    So yes the travel apps are cool, but are in no way on par with the iPhone. Snazzy video, but the travel books section was a tad misleading IMO.

    Plus, just to be able to do that much means you have to buy the $629 iPad and not the $499 version b/c you need the 3G service turned on.

    I’m still getting an iPad, but both the publisher and Apple loose when a book customer thinks they’ll be able to do one thing and find out they can’t or that the experience is sub-par.

  3. It looks like these are all standalone apps (1 app for each book they are showcasing). Does anyone know if Penguin (or any of the other large publishing houses) will be putting video and sound in the books we’ll be able to buy from the iBooks bookstore? Steve Jobs mentioned embedding video in the iBooks books, but I haven’t been able to find any examples of this.



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