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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.