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Apr. 4 2010 - 11:07 am | 958 views | 2 recommendations | 5 comments

Hands on: Apple’s iPad – Kindle for iPad – and e-book pricing

Don’t count Amazon out yet. I’ll tell you why…

Here are my first impressions of iPad as a Kindle and iPhone owner.

I set up my Apple iPad on Saturday and imported all my iPhone apps, and the Kindle app updated into a nice high-res Kindle for iPad that in some ways trumps the free iBooks application from Apple. And when you include the e-bookstores offered by Apple and Amazon, I think I’ll stick to Amazon for the flexibility (subject to publishers’ pricing manipulation, of course).

Kindle for iPad - Archive View

This review will be brief. More after the jump…

Book Reader Apps

The iBooks app and the Kindle app are very similar, both free from the iPad store; iBooks comes with a free copy of Winnie the Pooh which includes color illustrations. Both display purchases in a bookshelf format with full-color book covers.

If you already have Kindle books, the Kindle app will let you retrieve them from the archives at any time; I grabbed a couple of the books I have on my Kindle 2 to compare.

Screen quality is sharper than Kindle and much higher resolution. But both Kindle and iBooks apps benefit from this. Their interfaces are similar, controls in different places, and my already-purchased copy of Free, by Chris Anderson, had sharp grayscale graphics. So too did the copy of Cook’s Illustrated.

iBooks for iPad

Kindle for iPad

But – with Kindle for iPad, I really doubt I’ll be buying anything from Apple’s store unless it’s a color book (and I’d probably just buy the dead tree version of a keepsake anyway). With the Kindle app, I can read the same book on Kindle 2, iPhone, iPad, or my PC, and sync my bookmarks. That’s a lot more choices than with iBooks.

For readability, the iPad is completely useless in the Florida sun. I do a lot of reading by the pool, and my iPad will be staying inside. Only e-ink is readable in bright sunlight.

iPad and Kindle readability in the sun

The iPad’s backlit screen is fine for reading at night, but I think I’ll stick with e-ink and a soft lamp over the shoulder to reduce eyestrain – and because the Kindle 2 is lighter.

Other Impressions

I tested out some other iPad apps – ABC’s ABC Player streamed episodes of Lost and Private Practice flawlessly over my home wi-fi. Adobe Ideas is a free sketchpad app for drawing with a finger. The iPad, unlike the iPhone, doesn’t come with a weather app – but free WeatherBug will fix you up (or AccuWeather, but I prefer WeatherBug’s user-interface).

Tweetdeck has already been updated for iPad, though the iPad version must be downloaded separately. Planets, a planetarium app for iPhone, is much more usable on iPad – providing a virtual planetarium the size of the screen that can be manipulated with touch gestures, Of my pre-existing iPhone apps, only Kindle and Planets had free “dual platform” upgrades.

The iPad has a glossy screen that will act as a mirror in ambient lighting – I found it a bit distracting when the TV shows I was watching showed my face, chair, and bookshelf in the glass. The device, at 1.5 pounds, is not light… spend an hour holding up the iPad to watch a TV show or read a novel and you’ll build some muscles.

The iPad has a lot of potential – I can’t wait to see the app marketplace grow. But for book reading, I don’t think it could be my only e-book reader. I much prefer the readability of e-ink.

Book Pricing

Now here’s where the FTC gets involved? Or book publishers simply screw up their own revenue streams.

Douglas Preston’s “The Cabinet of Curiosities” on Kindle cost me $6.39 from Amazon.com in June 2009 – both Apple and Amazon’s e-book price is now $22.99 (price apparently set by Hachette Book Group). That’s nuts! You can get a brand new paperback copy of this book – published in 2002 – for $7.99 at Amazon.com. Why would anyone want to pay 3x that price for an e-book of a paperback?

Clive Cussler’s “Corsair” just came out in paperback ($9.99 cover price). I just finished reading it… bought it for under $6 at Costco. Amazon.com sells the e-book for $7.99; the Apple Bookstore has it priced at $8.99. That’s a bit more reasonable. However, Cussler’s “The Wrecker” is still in hardcover. I purchased it for $9.99 in December 2009. Today the e-book is $14.99 at both Amazon and Apple, $3.45 below Amazon’s hardcover price.

Publishers want readers to pay more – but the alternative is the library or a used bookstore. Or independent authors…

David Derrico’s sci-fi novels Right Ascenscion and Declination are both $0.99 in e-book format from Amazon or Apple. I’ve read the first and I’m working on the second novel. Both are excellent alternatives to expensive e-books. There are many self-published authors in various genres, both fiction and non-fiction, with affordable and highly readable e-books. I think established publishers are sinking their own ships (and their authors as well) with their pricing strategies.

Smart readers on a budget should shop around and be selective.


I didn’t buy the iPad to read books on – I expected the display and weight issues. I was pleasantly surprised to see I can read any of my Kindle books on iPad, if I choose to. But I’m disappointed at what’s happened to e-book prices in the wake of iPad, and while the iPad’s display is sharp, it’s a bit too shiny.


3 T/S Member Comments Called Out, 5 Total Comments
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  1. collapse expand

    Thanks for the “well thought” review – I look forward to your further thoughts on this.. I do not own an e-reader yet, and I kind of figured that I would (like you) own both – (kindle / ipad) for the same reasons that you state.

  2. collapse expand

    This is my second go-round with eBooks, the first in the height of the Dot-Com era. I like your assessment of reading- where there’s the portability of an eBook replacing dozens or hundreds of books.

    But here’s a thought: who needs to bring a few dozen books on vacation in the first place? The real market for these devices may not be casual readers, but rather commercial ones- people who need enormous volumes of potential reference materials. In the case of prior eBooks, including the various PDAs like the Palm Computer, vertical markets dominated- such as medical, aviation, etc. It’s likely that the iPad will find a similar home there.

    So- paying $22 for a $7 paperback makes a lot of sense for reference materials, where search and retrieve is of prime importance… so long as the apps take advantage of this. But traditional eBook software may not fill this need.

  3. collapse expand

    Thanks for the well-written review … and the positive mention of my novels. =) I’m glad you enjoyed them.

    I’m also a big fan of reading on the Kindle, and I just got my wife an iPad for her birthday. I must say, it’s more fun and “cool” than I thought, but I don’t think it will replace my Kindle for serious reading.

    I also agree that large publishers are slitting their own throats with unreasonable pricing, blocking text-to-speech, delaying e-book releases, etc. … it’s as if they didn’t see what happened with the music industry, how customer-unfriendly policies and high prices drove people to piracy, but how people are now quite willing to pay reasonable prices for DRM-free music. Well, for now, their loss is my gain, and I think the cat is out of the bag with e-book readers and publishers won’t be able to destroy the market or stall their adoption for long.

    – David

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