The iPad will kill ebooks as we know them

The iPad will kill ebooks as we know them

Summary: 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.

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TOPICS: Hardware, iPad, Mobility
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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seem like little more than semantics, but it's in fact a crucial difference because it doesn't try to keep up all those outdated book paradigms.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 ...

Topics: Hardware, iPad, Mobility

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162 comments
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  • Benefit for novels?

    I'm guessing at least half of ebooks today are novels. Not sure how they would benefit as they have no multimedia content at all other than the cover page, unless you're thinking of live action scenes now needing to be produced to spice up the dry old paperback novel?
    Zathros
    • Back ground info, insights, etc.

      In some novels, historical context may be helpful. It would be useful, for instance, while reading fiction about the battle of the bulge in WWII,for instance, to be able to look up information about the soldiers and equipment on both sides, or look at maps, time lines, etc.

      This could add a new element to a story.

      Or if a story has a lot of characters or plat elements, the ability to refer back to them or list them.

      The ability to tag and annotate as I go and then create my hyper-links through a novel to navigate forwards and backwards or track items in unanticipated ways...

      There is plenty of potential here.
      woot!
      • Interesting

        I was thinking the same thing about a device that would really be a library in a single unit. Whether the iPad can do this or not will remain to be seen.

        I am an avid reader. It has been a while but sometimes I still run across a word that I do not know the definition or its pronunciation. It would be great to have a device that can jump from a word to a dictionary for the definition and a sound to help pronounce the word and then jump back to the story.

        I fear that what will happen is another shallow entertainment device that does not have the ability to be a research tool. There are a lot of hurdles along the way including DRM, copy right and many other things.

        When I was a child I used to read volumes of encyclopedias. Articles had "See also ..." at the end so that there was a chain of information that was almost like the internet with hypoerlinks to other sites. It would be great to have a single device that can merge both worlds to be educational and entertaining on deeper levels.
        sboverie
        • Be nice if...

          It'd be nice to integrate internet searches, reference look ups, and the "see also" stuff into the reading experience, even if the author didn't put it in.

          I think we will slowly move in that direction, until a "killer app" or a new annotation paradigm emerges. Then I think we'll see eBooks really shine (independent of the hardware vendor)

          Technical manuals would benefit here greatly. I also joke that you have to buy 6 or 7 technical books to get enough chapters to assemble a good reference manual.

          What if you really could do just that? Create a virtual book by stringing together the chapters from a number of manuals to give you the reference material you need? As your skills or requirements changed, you could reconfigure this manual to match your needs.

          Hmm, gotta think about developing something like this.
          woot!
          • The technology is there to do this

            As someone who also loves to read and learn new
            things, especially history, I would love to
            have such an experience on this device. The
            technology is there already for any publisher,
            any developer to use now, and to add value to
            their content. It's not enough to just transfer
            a paper book or hardcover book to digital eBook
            format. It is a digital version after all, so
            there needs to be hyperlinks and such as
            mentioned so I can continue learning till I am
            content.

            On history books for instance, I would like
            full color high quality pics, of corse play
            videos with a simple touch, dive into maps with
            a simple gesture.

            Have some type of social
            feature so users can join in on a book club and
            stay in contact with friends (Oprah would love
            this!). The ability to send the Author a quick
            note after I am done reading a book would be
            cool (great read!). Recommendation of books
            other social friends have read right after. So
            many possibilities.....

            Technical manual is definitely something I am
            looking forward to.
            dave95.
          • Hypertext

            This notion isn't new. People have been doing
            this for about 20 years; however, it has
            generated a very small following. I first saw a
            hypertexted novel presentation in the early
            1990s, before Windows 95 came out. The "novel"
            was a terrible bore as it turned out, even
            thought the idea was intriguing.

            There are a couple of considerations here. How
            many individuals have the creativity to develop
            all of the skills needed to produce such a
            "novel" and how expensive will it be to produce
            high quality work using a whole production
            company. Think movies.

            Is the audience big enough to support such
            products? So far the answer has been no. The
            traditional book, usually with single author,
            makes more economic sense. Publishers are
            generally out only a few thousand dollars.
            Multimedia products cost substantially more.
            jimmanis
          • Programming for authors

            Programming an ebook with hypertext, images etc. is fairly simple, like learning to use a WP program. Ebooks publishers like Amazon and Apple could do a lot to make it more user-friendly on their Ebook store platforms because as of now it's a hodgepodge of small vendors and two many incompatible formats. But it's certainly not expensive in terms of time or money.
            mharring54
  • RE: The iPad kill ebooks as we know them

    The iPad is a joke, when compared to the HP Slate.
    roteague
    • RE: The iPad kill ebooks as we know them

      Mr. Troll - Why are you reading this if it's a joke?
      You do realize the HP Slate does not yet exist? Also, running Windows 7 on a tablet is not necessarily a feature.
      rossdav
      • Tablets

        Windows 7 on a tablet is a feature to me. Looking forward to the HP Slate and the other such form factors at similar prices to the iPad. Also looking forward to receiving my Always Innovating Touch Book. Let the competition begin.
        gcomputeronet
      • ...

        [i]Also, running Windows 7 on a tablet is not necessarily a feature.[/i]

        For some it will be... Just as the iPad will do very well for those who it fits. Unless something that fits what I'd use it for better, I will probably be one of those.
        Badgered
      • wait a minute

        >>Also, running Windows 7 on a tablet is not necessarily a feature.

        That is a very bold statement. You have not seen HP Slate yet. I see
        iPad and Slate serve different purposes completely. I see Slate will
        shine when I use my OneNote for taking notes and doing some hand-
        drafted diagrams for architecture etc. Slate also enjoys the .NET
        Framework likewise iPad enjoys the existing apps for iPhone/iPad
        Touch. They may step on each others toes here and there but they are
        totally used for different purposes. And also Windows 7 is a feature, it
        has all the necessary stuff to run a gesture based multi-touch
        systems. Have you seen one, I am already enjoying it on my HTC-
        Shift, FYKI. I am looking forward for HP Slate to replace my Shift. I am
        moving because HTC stopped developing further on this and the H/W
        of HP is making me to go for. Bad, Bad HTC. They have not realized
        Shift as a powerful tablet, and screwed its design and limiting the
        Windows Mobile side of the system by not having memory card,
        bluetooth, and wifi support. Also they crippled the Windows Mobile
        and called it as SnapVue a very bad decision.
        --Ram--
        Ram U
        • Yeah, good luck with that

          1. Yes, Windows 7 is multi-touch enabled.

          2. Windows 7 was NOT designed for touchscreens. Those tiny, mouse-focused controls, a window/desktop metaphor that is poorly-suited to an all-touch device, scroll bars everywhere... I haven't tried it, but I suspect the user experience will be, to be charitable, lacking.

          3. While Windows itself may, in places, work fine with all-touch input, the millions of applications you might want to run on it are another story. Remember, the Slate does not have a stylus, so "taking notes in OneNote" means typing with what looks like a rather poorly-implemented on-screen keyboard. It will get much worse the further away from Windows 7, HP and Adobe apps you get.

          The HP Slate, and any Windows-based multi-touch tablet, looks great on paper, but the experience of using one is likely to disappoint, if not outright infuriate. The iPad is very feature-poor, but Apple has made sure the user experience is rock solid, which may matter more in the end for most users.
          paferg
          • Win 7 vs. Win 7 Mobile

            @paferg,

            What
            While I share some of your negative sentiments
            about Windows, I read many notes saying that
            [b]Win [i]Phone[/i] 7 is totally different[/b].
            They fully re-worked interface, and it's more
            like Zune HD Media Player and less like Win 7
            or WinMobile 6.5. Everybody who reviewed it
            tells that it is great, so that upcoming
            Windows Phone 7 is great. So, if companies
            chose not only base cell phones on Win Phone 7,
            but also tablets, they may compete very well
            against Apple tablets and Android devices.
            Which is really good.
            vkelman
  • eink

    The eink technology allows you to read for hours as a normal paper would. Backlit screens in the ipad or normal computers get annoying and strain your eyes.

    Shawn
    TheRealJayZ
    • Keep lying to yourself dude....

      I've always been a reader and I still am... I
      read an average of 2 books per week. Get a clue
      dude... Real books as well as e-ink can strain
      your eyes... (yes, I've read several books on a
      kindle)... Text by nature will strain your
      eyes... It doesn't matter if it's ink on paper
      or e-ink on a screen or a standard LCD... Yes,
      the quality of the screen matters, but it's
      still text...
      i8thecat
      • Reading screen

        I beg your pardon, but 2 books a week doesn't really qualify for prolific reader, and while it's true that text strains the eyes, how it's presented is crucial to eye strain. The "ink" is way better than a crt or normal digital monitor.
        darwin3
        • Prolific Reader

          I am unsure of the world in which you exist, but reading an average of two books a week certainly qualifies as a prolific reader in my "real" world.
          jb985
      • False

        I've read several books on both a tablet and an e-reader (and of course plenty of regular books). There is a significant difference in the eye strain caused by a backlit screen. While I would eventually get eye strain after a couple hours of reading a book or an e-reader, I got it after about 15 minutes on one of my tablets or a laptop. Trust me, if you're reading 2 books a week, a backlit screen is going to be noticeably worse for you.
        PyroSlacker
    • eink

      Eink is hype, I have zero eye strain problems reading an LCD or CRT screen for hours at a time. I've been doing this for over 20 years and I don't see the problem, and I don't know of anyone that it affects like they say it is supposed to. Sure, if I'm tired and I didn't get much sleep the night before and I have to read my computer screen for a few hours, I'll get sore from doing it, but I've also had the exact same symptoms from reading a book for that long under those conditions.

      I don't think Eink is all that revolutionary, it's slow, it still has flashing page issues, and it's incredibly expensive. So, no thanks, I'll read on an LCD anytime, considering it has it's own reading light built in. It may not have the battery life of an ebook reader, but that's usually not a problem for me. I'll buy one of the older ebook readers with an LCD screen before I pay4 times the price for an eink one.
      BrewmanNH