iPhone Life magazine

Kindle Killer

iPad, iBooks, iBookstore: 3-punch knockout

Kindle and iPadThe iPod and iTunes made Apple the most important player in the music industry. Now, with the release of the iPad and the free iBook app to access its new iBookstore, Apple aims to do the same for print. So how does the iPad fare as an eBook reader

The Kindle (and most other e-readers) uses an e-paper display, which is readable in sunlight and supposedly easier on the eyes than traditional computer displays. However, e-paper displays lack color and have a low refresh rate, which precludes color graphics or video. Perhaps most importantly, e-paper requires an external light source (you can't read in bed without one!). Any advantage Kindle and other devices with e-paper screens have when reading in direct sunlight is outweighed by the vibrant color of the iPad's 9.7" IPS LED display, which is crisp, clear, and easy to read in low-light conditions. In addition, the iPad is a more versatile device, with a screen that supports video, Web browsing, and gaming.

iBooks-gorgeous to look at and a pleasure to use!

iBooksThe free iBooks app doesn't come pre-installed with the iPad, but you are prompted to download it the first time you access the App Store. Books are stored in a beautifully rendered "bookshelf" view.

The iBooks app is gorgeous to look at and a pleasure to use. Pages flip over smoothly and precisely as you move your finger under them, displaying a realistic, curled-page look as the page turns. Reading on the iPad feels more like holding a book than any other e-reader

iBooks provides a natural reading experience.

But iBooks is much more than nice page turning graphics. You can rotate the iPad to display a single page, switch between several fonts and sizes, or change the brightness of the screen. Searching for a word is almost instantaneous. The app displays the page you are on, the total page count, and the pages left in the chapter. Tap a word and select "Bookmark" to add it to a Bookmarks tab in the Table of Contents. Close iBooks with the home button, and the app reopens to the same spot in the book.

iBookstore-commercial and free eBooks available

iBookstoreTap the "Store" button in the upper left hand corner of the bookshelf view, and it rotates to reveal the iBookstore. Apple has lined up support from most major publishers, including Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon and Schuster. Noticeably absent is Random House, which supports neither the iBook nor the Kindle reader. According to Apple, the iBookstore had around 60,000 titles available upon release, compared to 400,000 on Kindle's bookstore. Prices for commercial titles in the iBookstore range from $9.99 to $14.99, but there are also many free eBooks available.

The beautiful iBookstore is weighted toward bestsellers

The iBooks app is polished, but the iBookstore seems unfinished. The store looks beautiful, and it's easy to find New York Times bestsellers, featured books, or top sellers. However, finding anything else is a bit difficult, especially when you approach the search from book categories. Hopefully, Apple will incorporate elements from iTunes like the Genius lists in a future version.

Books purchased from the iBookstore are in the ePub format with DRM (Digital Rights Management) protection. You can't transfer them to someone else's iPad, but you can sync and share unprotected ePub documents. A plethora of free ePub books and other documents are available from Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page).

An excellent first chapter

I would like the next version of iBooks to have the ability to add notes to eBooks. This is an absolute must for textbooks. In addition, the iBookstore needs better navigational tools and more titles.

The iBooks app is only available in the U.S. Initially, it was only available for the iPad, but Apple will include the app with OS 4.0 for the iPhone. With Amazon and Barnes and Noble also releasing e-reader apps for the iPad, Apple's new tablet is the only device that supports multiple e-book readers and stores. It's an excellent first chapter in Apple's promising print strategy.

Will the iPad Help Amazon Dominate the eBook Industry?

By Nathan Clevenger

While iBooks and the iBookstore definitely make Apple and Amazon competitors, I believe the iPad actually compliments and completes the Kindle experience.

At first, eBooks purchased from the Kindle store could only be read with the Kindle reader. However, last year Amazon released a Kindle app for iPhone that can access the same library of books purchased from the Kindle store. They also offer PC and Mac versions of the app, which I find particularly useful when I’m at work and need to find information in technical and non-fiction reference books. All versions of Kindle are linked by Whisper Sync, a new feature that keeps track of your current spot in each book you’re reading—as well as your bookmarks, highlights, and notes—and syncs them across all of your supported devices.

Overall, I was satisfied with Kindle. I could access any of my books within seconds from my iPhone, PC, Mac, or the Kindle tablet itself. But there was one important usage scenario that left me wishing for more. Like most people, I like to read while sitting up in bed or on a couch. The iPhone version of Kindle is very portable, but the screen is rather small. Mac and PC laptops have better screens, but even the smaller ones are a little awkward to hold in your lap. The Kindle reader itself is very portable, but its E-ink display is not backlit. While it is quite readable in bright lighting conditions, it’s often difficult to read in the dimmer lighting associated with reading while sitting up in bed.

The iPad shines

The portability of the iPad, its bright backlit screen, and the new Kindle app for the iPad make it a better solution for reading Kindle eBooks in poor lighting situations. The display is bright, crisp, and clean, and flipping forward and backwards through pages is quite snappy. I continue to use both devices in different situations. The iPad is incredible for reading in bed or curling up by the fireplace, but honestly isn’t very readable outdoors. The Kindle reader is fantastic for afternoons at the park or sunning yourself at the beach. They complement each other quite well, and neither device can make a compelling case for replacing the other.

By embracing the iPad, Amazon has extended their cloud-based library to every device in the spectrum and added a whole new group of potential eBook customers. In my opinion, the Kindle app is actually the killer app for iPad—it turns it into a true cross-platform eBook reader and a compelling alternative for Kindle users.

It’s going to be very exciting to see how the eBook market evolves and to take advantage of the future innovations that are sure to come from Apple and Amazon.