Apple iPad will be a game-changer in many ways, but one area of tech that it will radically shake up is that of the ebook market. In fact, Apple's latest creation will kill off the ebook as we know it.
It doesn't make sense that we have electronic devices specifically designed to give us a digital representation of the analog reading experience.The problem with ebooks so far is that they're books first, and the electronic bit is an afterthought. Basically the ebook paradigm has been to try to replicate electronically the paper book (or more specifically, the paperback) experience as closely as possible. So we're still thinking in terms of black ink on paper, pages turning, bookmarks and so on. The problem with this thinking is that it limits what a book can be. Sure, we have features such as search and word lookup, but on the whole, the ebook experience is being held back because we're still thinking of ebooks as books.
And ebook readers such as Amazon's Kindle and B&N's Nook are also to blame. It doesn't make sense that we have electronic devices specifically designed to give us a digital representation of the analog reading experience, even down to screen, form factor, and even page flipping gestures. The Kindle and Nook have both (along with countless other ebook readers) been designed as digital books rather than as platforms to deliver text/images.
The iPad changes this. Why? Because rather than being a device that's specifically designed as an ebook reader, it's a handheld tablet that just happens to be an ebook reader. That might seem like little more than semantics, but it's in fact a crucial difference because it doesn't try to keep up all those outdated book paradigms. Instead, it's a device, with a screen, that can display text and images ... and more.
Take the DVD. These simple plastic discs revolutionized the movie experience, giving us the ability to skip chapters, rewind, fast forward, pause, add subtitles and different audio tracks, and providing us with all sort of extras. My guess is that the ebook will, in much the same way, evolve into a product that goes beyond being a digital recreation of a page of text and images because the iPad will be a tablet computer first, rather than being just an ebook reader.
Multimedia is the obvious feature. Why have just images in a book when you could have sound and video. But that's just the beginning. You could throw all sorts of features into the experience, such as social collaboration, integration with web-based information, updates and much more. We'll stop thinking about ebooks as books and start to see them as pre-packaged chunks of information, entertainment or news.
The ebook reader is on borrowed time ...