Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thoughts on the iPad from an e-book reader point of view

Besides loving to read on e-paper technology with its clarity and on the Kindle with its well-thought-out, direct reading & study features, I also love doing the Web on my 10" Samsung Netbook  (NC10-14). So the thoughts are on that also.

Re the e-reader, the Apple team was apparently given two weeks to put that together, unless I mis-read the transcript. It's made to look as if you're reading a physical book, but there were no words I saw in the live blogging transcripts (Wired, Engadget, CNet) about the e-reader functions for Searches, inline-instantly-accessible dictionary, highlighting, notes, etc.

The Amazon Kindle Store
The article last night from Engadget quoting WSJ: Apple wants e-books to be $12.99 or $14.99...for best sellers turned out to be right.

Steve Jobs wants the publishers to charge more (which is how they will get more from the deal with Jobs) than is charged at Amazon for the bestsellers (!) Then, both publishers and Apple will be happier, but what about the book-buying customers? Why would customers buy from iTunes store or iBook store rather than from Amazon in that case?

Also, if - as Jobs said - the iPad will work with all apps that currently work with the iPod (a great feature) and then the Amazon Kindlestore itself, with its lower prices for best sellers, will be available on the iPad, why would people choose to pay more at the Apple store for a best seller?

I imagine that the Apple store will offer all kinds of bonuses for buying from their store, credits to get this or that. But people tend to go for the best price, direct. Still, Apple customers are very loyal so those may go with the Apple store, but I doubt that very many would.

So, the Amazon Kindlestore would get that many more buying customers -- those who had not bought a Kindle before or who had read Kindle books only on their PCs with the free Kindle for PC app.

E-Reader Dictionary and Annotation Functions
From the photos, the iBook effect is very pretty, but I couldn't see from the photos that it will be sharp and clear in the way an e-paper display (e-Ink and others) is with a screen that's not putting light into your eyes. I guess it'll be left up to developer apps to add the searching and annotation functions? They weren't mentioned and are key.

And those who want a clear e-reader without dictionary or annotation tools can get one for about $200 with the pocketable but very readable Sony PRS-300, though it has no wireless access.

iPad vs the 6" Kindle International
More on the above when I get to Apple's decent pricing for a Web tablet -- but as pricing for an e-reader-plus, the iPad won't threaten the Kindle International ("Global") as the lead e-reader for people who want to read books comfortably (size and clarity of text on screen) at a reasonable price for both the device and the books themselves.

Every day there's a column on the Net written by a columnist who had resisted ereaders for the usual reasons (look, touch, smell) succumbing to the reading experience of the Kindle. People who love to read books are the target audience for the bulk of dedicated e-readers, rather than whose who want to surf and be visually entertained.

The DX, though, will have to be given PDF editing tools and ePub reading capability for it to be chosen in academia, not that there is editing of PDFs for the iPad at the moment either.

We also get a clue as to why the McGraw-Hill exec was so forthcoming in that CNBC interview last night despite non-disclosure agreements normally made and respected. They weren't part of the 5 publishers highlighted today as getting with the entire program, though obviously they'll participate in some way.

iPad vs Netbooks
Some points that come to mind when Steve Jobs put down netbooks (with commenters on the live blogging sites writing back that netbooks are actually faster and more powerful than the iPad w/o a need to buy and carry add-ons to make it more worthwhile):

Jobs isn't targeting business-use laptops but I don't see that most of us who love our small but 10"-screen netbooks will want to get this, as we have 160G to 300G hard drives to store the videos he was showing and a real keyboard plus touchpad to do mousing chores. And it can do many things at once.

List of problems for the iPad vs the netbook audience it wants:
1. No multi-tasking possible
2. No flash (!) for the Web? But Jobs has been adamantly against using it.
3. 1 connection for USB port capability if you buy a special adapter
4. Storage ability not at all great for a WEB device - especially for people with laptop-use like the photographers who thought they could travel with the iPad and store their photos on it while being able to view and edit later at 64G storage, tops, at a cost of $800+.
And still photos do not begin to take the storage space of videos. Video hounds tend to want to keep many videos on at once.
5. Some commenters said it's too big for your pocket, too small for meaningful work or even play.
6. A physical keyboard means extra$ and also extra weight to carry.

For some reason, people did not expect just a giant iPod.

The pricing, as I said, is very good for a web-device if you want one.
From the transcript:
11:22 Here are the options:
Wi-Fi only:
16GB $500
32GB $600
64GB $700

Wi-Fi + 3G:
16GB $630
32GB $740 Should be $730
64GB $830

It’ll be shipping in 60 days; 90 days for 3G models.
What's smart, and attractive, is the no-contract price of $15/mo. for 250M of data
(but it's a useless amount data for most though a few can stay under that and some will not realize they can't).

Even $30/month for unlimited cellular wireless is good because most netbooks sold on 2-year contracts with Sprint and Verizon (the netbooks are sold for $150 avg) require a $60/mo. for those 2-years for ALMOST unlimited wireless.

This part would be a coup were it not that AT&T who will provide this has been asking users not to use the wireless so much as they can't handle the capacity in a few cities. So what will they do now?

BASE price then, before add-on wireless keyboard, covers, cases, webcam (which almost all notebooks have, built in) for the 3G wireless is $630, with only 16G storage for a device that was shown doing streaming video that some will want to keep (and on their netbooks they can), and a plethora of other things.

So the most PRACTICAL starting point is really 32G at $740 $730 (the transcript is off by $10; thanks to Batman for the correction) - before the data plan is added. Kudos for the lower starting points for those who can live with the limitations on a data-gobbling device.

In the iPad's Favor
A point in the iPad's favor: Most netbooks equipped to have 3G access instead of just WiFi WILL cost $40 (ultra limited access) to $60 per month with the requirement that buyers pay this amount for 2 years. With the iPad there is no contract needed for the lower pricing of $30/mo. for 'unlimited' access (when AT&T is able to handle it).

My Take on the iPad
My take: Elegant Jack of all trades, Master of none in a lighter, but far less flexible package than a netbook. And so far I think it will suffice for e-reading for people who are not that keen on reading entire books often, but who read mainly in spurts and are interested more in newspapers and magazine reading and haven't yet bought an e-reader due to lack of interest.

Those who do want to read many books on one dedicated device but who were waiting to see what the Apple is like before buying an e-reader will look at $259 for a many-featured, efficient e-reader like the Kindle, or the Sony or even the Nook (though the Nook is currently extremely buggy in the most basic operations after update 1.11 and so inefficient that it's hard to say how it will do long-term, but readers who haven't used more direct, capable, and reliable e-readers will enjoy the Nook because it does have the best screen contrast of the e-readers, looks great and is priced well).

The Kindle-Killer hopes
For now, there is still no "Kindle-killer," as many gadgeteers like to say, where the $259 Kindle Int'l is concerned, coming as it does with free 24/7 Net access in the U.S., Japan, HongKong and Mexico for text-based lookups and with, at the least, live Wikipedia access at no cost, globally, in addition to an excellent e-paper reading experience.

The key is with long-session sequential text reading vs the random reading done with newspapers and magazines. LCD screens are not doable for most with that kind of reading focus.
I can leave this low-white-tuned desktop screen bleary-eyed, with almost blurred vision, and go read on the Kindle and then remain awake for hours caught up in the reading, with no strain on the eyes and my vision back to normal.

Amazon needs to work on the Kindle DX to make it more attractive to business and academia.
Again, ePub format support is required as is the editing of PDFs for those two target audiences.

For people like me (and there are many) I favor reading on the DX because of its extremely vivid clarity and the ability to read PDFs very well (web-info is usually offered in PDF format) while it handles illustrations in books with far better detail than the smaller e-readers. The Kindle's annotation tools and webpage support for those annotations + the design of their dictionary use are prime, and it remains to be seen how the iPad will handle these areas later as well as the effect on the eyes for any long-session reading.

That's it for now :-) Comments from others are very welcome, of course.

Photo Credit: Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

Send to Kindle

(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
If interested, you can also follow my add'l blog-related news at Facebook and Twitter
Questions & feedback are welcome in the Comment areas (tho' spam is deleted). Thanks!


  1. Big thing about price - I'm not going to buy a bestseller (that I can't resell!) at $14.99 when I can go to Costco, get it for $17, and resell it later on for $8 or so.

    I rarely re-read books. Maybe three times in my life.

    When the price is below $10, then the lack of resale ability isn't as big of a deal.

  2. That means you'd, in effect, paid $9 for your read of the physical book.

    And save $1 by going to Costco minus the wear and tear on the car :-) and the time it takes.

    I don't re-read books much either! and I agree with you on your thinking. It's that you're not part of the target audience when it comes to the whole idea maybe.

    Amazon's older books (2-3 years) are usually under $10, so maybe you ARE part of the target audience :-)

    Thanks for the feedback, Eric.

  3. I thought the same thing about the Kindle Store, but we may be getting ahead of ourselves. Several times, Apple has rejected Apps that "duplicate functionality" of an Apple-provided tool - music stores, VOIP apps, and the like. There's a very real possibility that Apple won't allow the Kindle Store or any other ebook app, citing its developer agreements.

  4. D,
    Apple could do that but then would wind up looking weak in preventing its users access to a store customers have been accustomed to using on their iPhones and iPods and who already know they'd be kept from the Amazon store because the pricing was lower.

    Publishers want to sell their books anywhere they can. They don't want Amazon to be the sole entity with the control that would entail, but I doubt they'd want people not to be able to access it. I could be wrong, naturally, but as I say, Apple would look weaker suddenly.

  5. "Elegant Jack of all trades, Master of none" is really what this boils down to. If you read novels, this isn't for you. Reading a novel for 4+ hours on this is going to kill the eyes. If what you want is to read magazines, newspapers, and browse the web, as well as watch movies plus whatever apps get written for it (do not underestimate this) then it's an exciting play. The price point was lower than what everybody was expecting. Travelers may like the more compact, but expanded feature set of the iPad (especially since it can do pages presentations as well).

    It'll be interesting to see what version 2 will give, as Apple will respond to signals of what people want it to evolve into. Amazon is doing the same thing with the kindle. Meanwhile, will most people who already have an iPhone/iPod touch really get that much else out of this?

    Also, why the hell doesn't the kindle support epub? There's no reason for it to support mobi, pdf, etc but not epub.

  6. Christopher,
    I agree with you on that smart pricing, which was necessary, from what we see.

    As a traveler, I pack my DX and my 10" netbook and cannot imagine replacing those two with the ePad. Nor would I pack it as an additional item.

    If travelling but not needing to do work on it or read novels as you say, AND wanting to catch up on magazines and the daily newspaper, then yes, it's very attractive to those with the means.

    I do think the reality-based Base price is the $740 one, once someone can afford it all + the $15 or $30 per a given month. AND reading periodicals on the home WIFI makes this a doable price.

    I want to see how they work the 2-iPads in a home situation and sharing of newspapers and magazine subscirptions, as that is the Kindle's weaker point for subscriptions, driven by publisher demands, I read.

    Re ePub, it's my take that this support will come pretty soon (it's just too needed) and that Amazon gave it less priority when each roll-out of a new capability gives it more buzz more often.

    They own Lexcycle which does Stanza, whose main thing is ePub. Non-DRM'd ePub is just a natural and no threat to the Kindlestore except for the fact that so much is available on ePub that people might buy fewer books.

    But if they don't do this, people would buy fewer Kindles :-) and stay less attached to Amazon's Kindlestore as main store.

  7. There's also the very interesting point that needs to be made about the kindle reader for the iphone/ipod touch, which would now be available for the ipad...

  8. Christopher,
    Exactly. And that point is made in my blog entry but is likely hidden by all that verbiage :-)

  9. Sorry, I didn't have a good experience with PDFs and annotations on Kindle DX. I sold it right after. I'm the type of guy who wants to read technical resources such as the Safari Books Online site, textbooks in PDFs and so on. I bought Kindle DX for that purpose and it failed to impress me. It doesn't do well with margin cropping, crappy reflowing/text font sizes and there was no dictionary support for it either. It didn't work well for me.

    iPad in this case might actually be the only device that can handle what I want but at the moment, you're right about the lack of highlighting, annotations, and dictionary support. Not to mention the serious lack of multitasking as well. Hopefully Apple can do something to impress me to get iPad, maybe multitasking support in iPhone 4.0? All we can do is hope. The thing about iPad, its the software that can change to people's need, Kindle is far too slow to adapt.

  10. Mike, did you get rid of the DX before the v2.3 update that fixed PDF margin cropping to optimize the use of space in Landscape for text? Made it much more readable. Fonts are enlarged as a result to meet the ends of the screen.

    The reflowing would have been for converted PDFs as there's no reflow with use of the actual PDF.

    BUT the problem with multi-column PDFS going up and down and then our having to go back and forth is a real one.
    They need a real zoom on it.

    There are no annotations possible for the PDF, which is a large drawback for anyone needing to work with the PDF (though i have suggested using it for visual reference and making notes on a converted copy -- this is what studios and agencies in Hollywood are doing, per two reports I blogged).

    There is no way to enlarge PDF fonts (except to rotate it, which leaves only 1 size change) No dictionary support, no text to speech, no highlighting or notes. To my mind, they will HAVE to add these with the proper Adobe license if they want this in the universities or in business environments and to interest people like you.

    Have you looked at Plastic Logic's Que for the PDF needs? It's gray scale only but it promises to be very good for business needs.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  11. "they will HAVE to add these with the proper Adobe license if they want this in the universities or in business environments and to interest people like you."


  12. Troy, let's hope it's very soon, though they've been absolutely silent on the matter. The university studies may have some influence though.

  13. Hi Andrys,

    Just a slight correction to your price list: The 32 GB version would be $730 ($729), rather than $740. I know it doesn't change your larger points, but you know I'm a frustrated editor ;-0 . Take care.

  14. Batman,
    I took the $740 from the transcript as shown in the orange colored blockquote.

    But it's $130 above WiFi prices, yes. Will make a note about that tomorrow, probably.

    Thanks. Do you have any other thoughts about this landmark occasion?

  15. My immediate thought/reaction was that the prospects of this particular device *might* suit my desire for a approx. 8.5 x 11 slate form factor for reading magazines and newspapers (I'm not a "gamer," and the video/TV-watching capability would be a nice feature, but not a necessity, per se). Furthermore, I'm not sure the 3G capability is a must have for me, as I'm (sadly) usually either at work or home, so the Wi-Fi would probably be enough (although I might find I'd regret not having it). And I definitely don't want more data charges, even on a pay-as-you-go basis. So all in all, I like the idea of the iPad, but at the current price structure, it's not compelling enough for me to take the plunge at this time. Maybe a later iteration, or a better fit by one of Apple's competitors...?

    I just realized I didn't say anything about the e-book aspects(!). I only saw the photos from the live blogs, so I probably need to check out some videos, but the "iBooks" were very visually appealing. If the e-ink screens ever became closer to white than gray, those would probably be aesthetically sufficient for my personal reading, but the iPad's was more pleasing to my eye at first blush.

    However, your points are well taken about the dictionary, annotations, etc. And those are some of the things I've probably come to take for granted, even in the relatively short time I've had a Kindle, so it's good to be reminded to include those in the purchase decision criteria. I thought I read somewhere today that there was some ability to sample books, which I've come to view as almost indispensable to my e-book reading habits, so that would be a plus.

    So, it seems like you and your blogosphere colleagues have quite a bit to chew on over the immediate future! I'm sure that these are the times that give you extra energy for those late night posts. One last thing - with regard to our exchanges about "quirky" product names (e.g., "eDGe"), how did "iPad" strike you? Take care.

  16. Batman,
    iEverything at least is a sort of identifying label. And then there's iRex and the iLiad.

    "EnTourage eDGe" is just too contrived for me and it does actually set up a mild resentment that they put us through this. I think if I could understand the positives of the package more, over its drawbacks, it wouldn't irritate me as much.

    Nevertheless, they did a beautiful job on the design. I wish they could make it slimmer and lighter if the e-paper screen can't be detachable and there can be no hard drive or keyboard.

    There are a lot of tablets coming out and I think one would meet your needs this year.

    The iPad's inability to multitask is, I think, a huge one. Someone wondered how Apple will be able to make an inline-dictionary for the reader but there must be a way.

    Also, how can you have the best webbing experience ever (as they described it) when you can't access the content of the opening flash routines at so many sites. I don't like flash openings but I'd like less being kept out of the sites because my device couldn't do it (if the webperson neglected to make a 'skip flash' but entire websites (such as photography galleries) are made entirely of flash (and are unnecessarily slow).

    At Gizmodo there was the really harsh review I mentioned (on Twitter) and then there is a very positive one which surprisingly drew jeers from the assembled, many of them Apple fans.

    Someone said they'd not seen a split like this before, between Gizmodo writers and the commenters. I don't think the iPad will be huge. It'll sell but certainly not the way some expected.

  17. iPad is no challenge to Kindle, but may find its popularity among college students as the ultimate tool for note-taking and pdf-reading. I have a Kindle but I still want one of those.

  18. Gorian,
    No mention of pdf-reading yet but of course it'll have to have that. Same with annotations, searches, and dictionary. I just wonder if they're leaving that to developers to handle in their different ways. I wonder about Apple's working relationship with Adobe. The flash thing seems to have been a problem.

    But they have another 2 months to go. It's beautiful. It makes sense to have both a Kindle and the iPad since they're so different and it'll be awhile before Apple gets all the functions working as well for an e-reader since it seems to have been one of the last items on their timeline.

    I hope they keep updates coming.

  19. I think the fundamental issue with the iPad (which I see as a giant iPod Touch) is that it is still a back lit screen. I work in front of two LCD screens all day long and my eyes get tired from that reading. My Kindle does not give me that problem. I will be traveling next week and will be taking my Kindle with me and am anxious to see how the experience is over a long period of time.

  20. Scott,
    I can read the Kindle for hours. On trips, it's been no different.

    Have fun !

  21. I could easily live with a wi-fi only kindle.
    As for book pricing, $9.99 is high for me. Most books I buy are used -- from amazon -- with a total cost of far less. If I could resell my kindle books to another kindle user, I would like that.

  22. Anonymous,
    So you don't care that much about pulling books from the air?

    It's good to be able to easily find older, good books that cost a lot less.

    As for reselling e-books, I'm afraid that's never going to be possible. There's no way anyone can tell if you kept a copy for yourself. It'd be like reselling an mp3.

  23. I "love" pulling books and rss feeds from the air, but have more than ample access to wi-fi for an internet connection.

  24. I am not an Apple fanboy, but I thought the iPad (terrible name) was beautiful with a gorgeous screen. Still, assuming that you need 3G wuth the monthly plan, then it becomes very expensive for a device that just surfs the web, plays games and video downloads, and reading, especially newspapers. It's an iPhone without the phone!! For that it is over-priced.

    BUT, if I can get by with wifi and a small hardrive for a total of only $499, no monthly charges, that is a pretty good price, especially if I can use my Kindle app on it.

    I've never read on a handheld backlit screen,so I can't testify to the effect on my eyes, but love the kindle e-ink screen..However, Kindle MUST get color this year, AND it must be VERY GOOD color, even tough 95% of my rading is on books.

    By the way, I don;t see this as a Kindle killer- but it might be a Skiff-killer!
    Rick Askenase

  25. Hi, Rick -
    I thought the iPad is beautiful too, still do. I had no problem with the name but have seen that others do (and I do know what the associations are). I'd always just thought of a notepad though.

    There is, from what I understand, no way to power a hard drive from it. But the 16 gig (solid state memory) is not going to store very much before the sync'g between computer and iPad has to be done for file transfers.

    NO USB port it turns out, but you can get an adapter for that.

    I'm preparing a list of things that people should consider when buying one and I should be through soon.

    I'm pretty sure that Mirasol color technology is going on a Kindle for probably late Fall. It has the reflective qualities of e-paper technologies and color and is also fast enough for video.

    You're absolutely right. All the Skiff has is the newspaper/magazine group. I think it was very flexible/bendable though. But it would be limited in other ways.

  26. I'll be (pleasantly) surprised if Apple approves a "Kindle for iPad App" for its App Store. Apple didn't approve the Google Voice app, and didn't back down even when the FCC became involved. Here was Apple's response to an FCC inquiry:

    "Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it. The application has not been approved because, as submitted for review, it appears to alter the iPhone’s distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone’s core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own..."

    I can see Apple rejecting a Kindle for iPad App for the same reason, because now Apple has its own iBook app. Perhaps Apple would end up "looking weak", but unfortunately that hasn't stopped Apple from rejecting apps before.

  27. Apple approved the one for iPod long ago, so they'd need a good reason. They have already been called in to explain that business practice (the Google rejection) and need to be careful.
    That was supposedly, as you say, based on a replacement of a core function and user interface but the Kindle store is a very external entity. Whatever, they can't make a case for allowing iPod and iPhone but not iPad.

    However, ya never know :-)

    Amazon said the other day, though, that the Kindle for iPad app is one of the options for Kindle owners during a response to a reporter asking about the iPad.

  28. I'm still trying to figure out how viewing PDFs on the Kindle DX really is. What is the experience of viewing textbooks or certification books that are in PDF form on the Kindle DX. I was holding off on purchasing an ereader because of waiting to see what Apple will do. I already have a workstation, laptop, and iPhone 3GS, so the iPad is a no-go as far as I'm concerned. I've been able to test out the Kindle 2 and it is great for reading novels, but it doesn't handle PDFs well at all. Please share your experiences and thoughts about PDFs on the Kindle DX.

  29. I have images of my DX displaying PDFs in vertical and horizontal and web pages also, and next to the Kindle 2.

    MY experience with PDFs on the DX is good with only a horrible sample from someone who had a physics PDF in pure gray and it was hardly readable.

    Remember you can try it out for up to 30 days and return it for ANY reason for a full refund.

    But check out the pics. Let me know what you think. I put a lot of electronics manuals on it. (I don't think the iPad mentioned PDF as a format yet -- maybe developing it or a problem with Adobe -- since they don't use flash while Adobe offered to work with them and they don't use Adobe's digital rights management over the ePub files.


NOTE: TO AVOID SPAM being posted instantly, this blog uses the "DELAY" feature.

Am often away much of the day, and postings won't show up right away. Posts done to use referrer-links may never show up.

Usually, am online enough to release comments within a day though, so the hard-to-read match-text tests for commenting won't be needed this way.

Feedback and questions are welcome. Thanks for participating.

Technical Problems?
If you're having problems leaving a Comment, Google's blogger-help asks that you clear the '' cookies on your browser's Tools or Options menu bar and that will fix the Comment-box problems (until they have a permanent fix).

IF that doesn't work either, then UNcheck the "keep me signed in" box -- Google-help says that should allow your comment to post (it's a workaround to a current bug).
Apologies for the problems.

TIP: There's a size limit. If longer than 3500 characters or so, in a text editor, make two posts out of it.

[Valid RSS]