Thursday, January 28, 2010

Are iBooks a Game-Changer for eBook Publishing?

I watched the reports coming in from Apple's announcement of the iPad yesterday with one thing in mind: What does it mean for eBooks? The answer I came up with surprised me. The iBook application and store will not have a huge impact on eBook publishing, and what impact it does have will be positive.

The iBook reader looks nice, with animated page turns that have always appealed to people who would rather look at books than read them. It is a full-color experience that will allow designers to knock themselves out with splashes of color where none existed before, much like typography on early Macintoshes. As cynical as I am, these are actually good things. Color and animation are an inevitable part of the future of publishing and if we have to go through another period of ransom-note publishing to get there, the result on the other side will still be worth it.

The down-side of the iBook reader is that it is a backlit LCD display that will be harder on the eyes over long periods than the black and white ereaders like Kindle, Sony, and Nook. If Ray Kurzweil (of Blio) is correct, LCD displays are now of such high resolution and flicker-free that people won't need to have eInk.

What I was really worried about was that Apple might come out with their own file format for eBooks. In its one exercise of truly good sense, however, Apple has adopted the IDPF standard ePub format for its books. That should mean that non-DRM ePub eBooks that you get for Adobe Digital Editions, Sony Reader, or Nook should play just fine on your expensive new iPad, and that file creation will be a matter of applying whatever DRM Apple elects to use to the publisher's existing files.

That is huge. It means that when you see the names of Harper-Collins, Penguine, Simon & Schuster, MacMillan, and Hachette up on the big screen, it's all about distribution, not about creating yet another version of the book. Easy entry for publishers means the iBook store should grow rapidly and have no difficulty in being at parity with other popular stores when it opens in two months.

From The National Post: Apple's iPad and new iBooks app to 'go a little further' than Kindle
From TechCrunch: Think iBooks Looks Familiar? You’re Not The Only One.
From CNET News: Apple iBooks e-reader: First Take
From The Huffington Post: iBooks: Apple's New iTunes-Like Store And App For Books

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