Will the iPad Kill the Kindle?

So finally, after months of speculation, Apple’s iPad has finally been unveiled. Although there is much to discuss about Apple’s latest device, the aspect that is most interesting to me is its use as an ereader. What was particularly intriguing about this development was the announcement that the iPad would support the ePub format. This could have massive implications for the ebook market, and is potentially disastrous for one market player in particular.

The iPad - Apple's Kindle Killer?

I have been fairly sceptical about the Kindle for some time. On a number of occasions I have questioned the wisdom of Amazon’s decision to pursue its own format rather than embrace ePub which has quickly become the industry standard format. Whilst they have had fairly limited competition in the ebook market, they have been able to getaway with backing their own proprietary format. However, now Apple have entered the fray, Amazon’s Kindle could be in real trouble. By supporting the ePub format, Apple have left Amazon nowhere to turn. Surely no-one will seriously consider a Kindle when it doesn’t support a format that has pretty much become standard? Although speculation is a dangerous game, it seems hard to see much of a future for the Kindle unless it adopts the ePub standard as soon as possible. If it does not, it is dead. And even if it does, it could be too late. The Kindle has not been able to get a foothold in Europe due to various technological issues (Amazon’s Whispernet cannot be used in Europe). Should the iPad launch over here before the Kindle gets a proper Europe-wide release (which is pretty much a nailed on certainty), the Kindle won’t have a chance.

However, Amazon may have one thing in its locker. The one drawback with the iPad, in terms of ebooks anyway, is that users could suffer from eyestrain as it is has a backlit screen. Reading from a screen using e-ink is far more comfortable than reading from a backlit screen as it puts no strain on your eyes whatsoever, and comes close to the experience of reading a ‘real’ book. That said, more and more people seem to comfortable reading text from their iPhone/Touch. I have even heard people suggest that they will ditch their ereader in favour of reading from their iPhone. So maybe it isn’t that much of an advantage after all!

As well as sounding the death knell for the Kindle, the iPad could have a very positive impact on the ebook market as a whole. With Apple’s current strength, is it unlikely to see the cost of ebooks come down and for this new format to finally take-off? Could it be that 2010 will see real growth for ebooks? It’ll be interesting to see how things develop in the light of Apple’s foray into the ebook market.

Update

Looks like my initial excitement may not have been well founded.  Just discovered this on an Adobe blog:

It looks like Apple is continuing to impose restrictions on their devices that limit both content publishers and consumers. Unlike many other ebook readers using the ePub file format, consumers will not be able to access ePub content with Apple’s DRM technology on devices made by other manufacturers.  And without Flash support, iPad users will not be able to access the full range of web content, including over 70% of games and 75% of video on the web.

I do hope this isn’t the case.  If the iPad was to adopt an ePub standard compatible with other readers then, as I said above, we could really see the ebook market take-off.  Maybe this will change before launch, if it does not it’s not the step forward I hoped it would be.

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14 thoughts on “Will the iPad Kill the Kindle?

  1. Good call. Kindle looks less and less impressive the more I look at the iPad. There’s no way that I’d buy an eBook reader now until I’ve had a very good look at the iPad. I love the idea of sitting in bed in the morning and downloading a newspaper to read there and then!

  2. Thanks Phil! Like I said in the post above, I have always been a little sceptical about the Kindle and I have generally discouraged people from getting one. Their decision not to go ePub was a big mistake. Over the past year it has been obvious that ePub was becoming the standard. I think a lot of people will seriously consider the iPad as an ereader when it is released here, it’s a fascinating development…It can only be a good thing for the development of the ebook market. Maybe 2010/11 will really see ebooks take off.

  3. I’ve been waiting to dip my toe into the world of ebooks for a while now, holding back partly for today’s announcement. Being partially sighted the screen is my biggest concern. I regularly read from the iPhone screen quite happily though – so you’re quite right, maybe the backlit display will be less of a problem.

    Like Phil I really want to test drive the iPad. I think it’s got huge potential as a great device to bridge the gap between the smartphone and the netbook. Whether people would buy it solely as an ebook reader remains to be seen. But as a wireless device that handles ebooks, Apple may have just cracked it!

  4. Peter – strikes me that ePub is the way to go, although I still think other formats should be made available in libraries.

    David – Yes, probably questionable about whether it would be bought purely as an ereader, but it will certainly have an impact on the ebook market. Interesting times ahead!

    • Without doubt the iPad will stimulate the ebook market during 2010. I’m not entirely sure about the formats offered through services such as NetLibrary or Overdrive, but they support ePub right?

      • Overdrive certainly supports ePub….I get most of my ebooks from WHSmiths in ePub format (their ebook site is actually powered by Overdrive).

  5. Further to my previous comment about how this impacts libraries, I think it is still very dangerous for libraries to support only one format. There is still a lot of uncertainty about the ebook market and things are likely to remain in a state of flux for sometime. Difficult to say for certain until the iPad is released, then we should get a better idea of where we stand in terms of formats.

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    • Yeah, when I wrote this post I was worried about how things would turn out in case I looked a bit dim! Since then the Kindle has really taken off (sadly), but the iPad has certainly revolutionised things…although more in terms of the PC market than e-readers as the news from HP demonstrates.

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