One of the bigger announcements yesterday that coincided with Apple’s iPad was the introduction of their own ebook (or iBook) store. They’ve signed on the major publishers to get content added for the iPad, but how will this move affect competitors like Amazon and Barnes & Noble? Are they set to compete for business or are the devices completely different, targeted at consumers looking for two distinct experiences?
Although it’s not directly marketed as a Kindle or Nook competitor, the iPad does step on the toes of both of these popular e-Readers. The higher priced and poorly executed B&N Nook, despite it’s Android-powered colored screen, still lags behind Amazon’s popular Kindle and ebook store. Ultimately, the Kindle is the e-Reader to beat. Both the iBook and the Kindle books are separate ebook formats, incompatible with one another. As many avid readers have already snatched an e-Reader and have no doubt built up a library around that device’s ebook format, it makes them that much harder to be pulled away for something new where their libraries start from scratch.
The most strikingly different characteristic between true ebook readers and the iPad is really the screen technology. Most ebook readers have e-ink screens that offer ultra-low power consumption to which no backlighting can compete. E-ink readers can go weeks without a recharge, especially with other features like WiFi disabled. The only real battery usage comes from refreshing pages, flipping the e-ink pixels into place. Unlike these e-Readers, the iPad uses LED backlighting that requires much more battery power than its e-ink counterpart. Many would also argue that reading on an e-ink device is much easier on the eyes and produces the best possible alternative to reading from paper itself. Reading for an extended period of time on a backlit device can be straining on the eyes, shortening the life of a reading session. It might come down to preference here, but I have a feeling most would side with e-ink technology.
Most compelling for the iPad is the additional functionality that’s bundled within the touchscreen device. The Kindle has just opened the opportunity for developers to create applications to view updating content, but due to limitations on the device itself might struggle to gain traction. The iPad is much more than an ebook reader. It’s an internet browser, light gaming device, and movie player. It’s so much more than e-ink e-Readers can dream up. Of course this functionality comes at a price. The iPad starts at $499 and the Kindle and Nook at $259.
The e-ink devices of today like the Kindle and Nook appeal strongest to the hardcore reader. As less enthusiastic readers begin looking for an e-reading device, many will probably consider the iPad and be swayed by its more versatile functionality. For now, there seems to be a place for both, but the continuing overlap in competing markets will push the war into one based on larger content libraries. Do you think the iPad will eat away at any of the e-Reading market? Is there a place where both can coexist? Share your thoughts in the comments.