Tablet sales soar; Apple sells 350,000 textbooks; first look at iBooks Author

A new poll released by Pew confirms what everyone suspected: tablet sales are soaring. The poll found that 19% of U.S. adults own a tablet computer, with the number of those owning a tablet nearly doubling between mid-December and early January — from 10% to 19%. Ebook ownership also increased from 10 to 19%. Pew said that this rise is especially striking, given that it followed a period in which there wasn't much change. They attributed the rise to holiday gift-giving, and the release of tablet computers by Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The poll found that nearly a third of college grads own a tablet, and over a third (36%) of those making $75,000 or more  a year have a tablet computer.

It's amazing to think that this market barely existed less than two years ago, and that the whole thing was jumpstarted in April of 2010 by Apple's introduction of the iPad. The poll doesn't say what percentage of those tablet owners have an iPad, but all the evidence suggests that Apple will report record iPad sales for the quarter — and that those figures will dwarf Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble tablet sales. Apple is expected to report sales of about 13 million iPads during the December quarter. Although that's a consensus estimate, at least one analyst is projecting sales of nearly 20 million.

It will be interesting to see if the new iBooks 2 textbooks increase sales. According to All Things D, a market tracking firm determined that over 350,000 textbooks were downloaded from Apple's new textbook store in iBooks in the first three days after it was announced. The report doesn't say what percentage of those downloads was the free textbook Life on Earth, but it certainly indicates great interest.

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Also, All Things D says the new iBooks Author software was downloaded over 90,000 times. If you're interested in this new iBook-authoring software for the Mac, there's a great review of it on TUAW. The authors are familiar with other ebook-creation software for iBooks and Kindle ebooks and are able to compare Apple's efforts with their previous experience. Their conclusion is that it's primarily suited for creating textbooks. If you have a regular ebook in mind, you can use iBooks Author but will need to tweak the templates for your needs. They also note the downside that books created with iBooks Author can only be read in iBooks 2 and not on the Kindle. If you want to create a book for both markets, you'll need to use a different tool. 

Given those caveats, they say that the software isn't perfect but about as close to perfect as you can get for a first release. They say that it works in a fashion very simliar to Apple's Pages software. The review describes the templates that are available, and the manner in which the software integrates with other Apple offerings such as iPhoto, Garage Band and iTunes in order to import media.

The authors also describe the steps involved in publishing your textbook in the iBookstore. If you're not planning to sell your book, you can distribute it freely, including as a pdf. But if you intend to sell it, your only option is the iBookstore. 

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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.