Apple's own approach to iPad e-books could confuse

Jan 31, 2010 By PETER SVENSSON , AP Technology Writer
In this Jan. 27, 2010 file photo, the Apple iPad is examined after its unveiling at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, file)

(AP) -- Even as Apple's iPad will likely energize electronic reading, the new device is undermining a painstakingly constructed effort by the publishing industry to make it possible to move e-books between different electronic readers.

The slim, 1.5-pound "tablet" computer unveiled last week will be linked to Apple Inc.'s first e-book store when it goes on sale in a few months. The , however, will not be compatible with Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle or with the major alternative e-book system.

Apple's creation of a third choice is likely to further frustrate and confuse consumers if they accumulate e-books for one device, then try to go back to read them later on a different one. The effect could be akin to having to buy a new set of CDs every time you get a new stereo system. It could also keep people from buying new e-readers as better models come out if they aren't compatible with the books they already have.

This could cool consumers' enthusiasm for e-books, the way sales of downloads were hampered by a variety of schemes.

"There are going to be some potentially painful lessons" for consumers when they try to move e-books they already own to new devices, said Nick Bogaty, senior manager of business development at Inc., which provides the major alternative e-book system.

Before the iPad's debut, there have been two main camps in the e-book industry.

The e-books that Amazon sells work only on the Kindle and on Amazon's software, which can be loaded for free on PCs and some . Everyone else, including Sony Corp., Barnes & Noble Inc. and public libraries, have gathered around Adobe's system.

Adobe doesn't sell books itself, but provides software to booksellers and libraries so they can sell and lend books that can be opened on multiple devices. Like the Kindle store, the Adobe system uses a copy-protection system that prevents buyers from reselling the books or distributing them online.

Apple would not comment about the plans for its bookstore, but Adobe said its system isn't being used by Apple.

Apple already has its own copy-protection system for iTunes and can easily extend that to e-books.

"I don't see Apple feeling like they need to come in as 'the collaborator.' That's not their style," Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey said.

Apple has said it would embrace the EPUB format for its e-books. Although that's the format adopted by the Adobe camp, that alone does not ensure compatibility because Apple would be using its own copy-protection scheme on top of it.

Apple is thus set to create a third technology camp in the e-book industry. Consumers who start buying e-books and want to go back to their books after a few years would have to make sure they have a compatible device, or at least compatible software. That can be pretty complicated.

Even if Apple uses its own copy-protection system, it doesn't preclude books using the Kindle or the Adobe scheme from being read on the iPad or an iPhone as long as Apple continues to allow outside parties to develop e-reading software for the Apple devices. The user would just have to remember which book goes with which software.

However, it's unlikely that books bought from Apple's store would work on non-Apple devices, except for PCs running iTunes.

So far, no media industry has managed to unite on one copy-protection system for downloads. Music retailers, including Apple, used a variety of schemes before ultimately ditching copy protection entirely as customers found the limitations to be a big hassle. Music from iTunes couldn't be moved to a digital media player linked to Microsoft's store, and so forth.

Movies and television shows are still sold and rented with multiple copy-protection systems, though, so you can't move an iTunes video to a Microsoft Zune player.

Forrester's McQuivey believes the division into several e-book camps will persist for years, but may eventually narrow to just two alternatives, one of them being Amazon's.

He doesn't believe copy protection will ever go away for . It died for music largely because CDs were never copy-protected, he noted, so consumers opted to buy them and convert them to digital files instead of buying downloads. Printed books, though they carry no copy protection, are difficult to convert to a digital format in the home.

As the market leader, Amazon has the scale to hold out with its own system, McQuivey said. Analysts estimate it has sold 3 million Kindles, and Amazon says it now sells six Kindle books for every 10 printed copies of books that are available in both formats.

All the same, the publishing industry has high hopes for the iPad, which unlike the Kindle and most other e-readers, will have a color screen that can show video.

Carolyn Reidy, the CEO of Simon & Schuster, said the iPad seems like a "terrific device," citing the clear screen and the ability to turn pages by touching a finger to the screen, as opposed to pushing a button, as the Kindle requires.

She said the fact that Apple already has 125 million customer credit card numbers through its iTunes store could add millions of potential book customers when the goes on sale in two months, starting at $499.

Any disappointment because of confusion over copy protection could be offset, at least in the short term, by the excitement and publicity caused by trendsetter Apple's entry into the e-book market.

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User comments : 11

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Monshat
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 31, 2010
There's an elephant in i-pad's room. It's very hard on the eyes to read books on a backlt LCD screen such as the i.pad has. That's why e.ink readers like Kindle and others have taken off. People who buy the i.pad for reading books are going to be very disappointed, if they don't go blind first. If they'd had a pixel qi screen and a real keyboard instead of a virtual one, Apple would be in front of the crowd on this one, instead of a hundred miles behind it.
Arikin
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 31, 2010
Umm... The iPad can use iPhone/iTouch applications...
Just use the Kindle app on your iPad.
http://www.amazon...00301301

Besides, the iPad and other tablets offer applications that let you use several formats on the same device. PDF, kindle, text, rtf, etc, etc.

Please do research before you write an article.
henryjfry
1 / 5 (1) Feb 01, 2010
The iPad may support multiple formats but you can only buy the books in the one, propriety format (presumably).
Also the article did mention that you could use different software with different books. It still wouldn't let you move an iPad book bought through iTunes to the kindle though. And that was the point of the article. More competition among formats when none was required.
RayCherry
5 / 5 (1) Feb 01, 2010
Monshat: It's LED. I read the iPhone screen everyday, even on the metro system, no problems. I also like the Kindle screen for reading, it is different, but it has the enormous drawback of lacking colour - and magazines/newpapers are not the only books that use colour extensively.

LED screens on tablet-form computers are becoming very capable of displaying legible text that provides very little strain to the eyes.

The advantage of a highly responsive colour screen with multi-touch capability are glaringly obvious, and Apple has deleivered the hardware ... let's see what the software developers can provide for it within the next year. I suspect that it will be more than enough to silence these precipitous criticisms.

If anything concerns me, it would be the locked-in delivery of software and media that can eventually lead to a monopoly. Controlled delivery has the obvious advantages of quality assurance and reduced risk of malicious code (viruses) - hope it remains worthwhile
boznz
not rated yet Feb 01, 2010
Disagree.

Backlit LCD screens are much worse for eye strain due to refreshing, an hour or two may be fine but e-ink is the only technology I would read a novel on. Until colour e-ink is developed I'll happily stick to greyscale.
Noumenon
1 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2010
It's ridiculous to pay for and have a separate device for e-books, imo. Apple has the right idea; the concept of "e-book readers" should be demoted to just being an App on a device that does A LOT more.

If you are 1) going to carry around a device that only displays text and 2) if readability is so important, than why not just carry the original one made out of a tree?

Also, I can't believe that a colour screen (LED-backlit w/ IPS technology) can not simulate e-ink to an acceptable level. We've been reading off computer displays for years and no one is blind yet from it.
chuck97224
not rated yet Feb 02, 2010
I have read (or should say tried to read) books on my iPhone and laptop. Reading a few pages is ok. Beyond that, it is just too stressful; I find my mind wondering.

Consequently, I prefer ROB (Regular Old Books) over electronic versions. They are easier on the eyes, never need charging, can be dropped from great heights and still work, easy to annotate and don't have DRM issues: I can legally loan them to friends. Plus the local library system has tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of books I can borrow for free. Of course, YMMV.

Noumenon
1 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2010
Yes, e-books appear to make sense from a technological progress standpoint, but when it comes down to it they seem to be a solution to a non-problem, and introduce as many problems as they solve.

If I had an ebook reader I would want to choose the Book First, and only then check whether it's available in e-book form, rather than the other way around. the last several books I purchased were not available in ebook form.
Nik_2213
not rated yet Feb 02, 2010
FWIW, the term iPad first appeared in 'Auger' in Threads (UK smallpress) issue 9 Autumn 1995 as a digital aid.
Royale
not rated yet Feb 05, 2010
Noumenon, apparently you don't understand e-ink. It's NOT backlit at all, meaning you read it in a room with the lights on, just like you would a normal book. Have you ever read a novel on a backlit screen? I have and it's annoying and i won't be doing it again. Why not stick to normal books? when you have 2 bookshelves that are full and are now resorting to storing in boxes it makes a lot of sense. that whole collection could be stored on my nook. I just got my nook and am happy with it. I stare at backlit screens enough during the day, when i'm reading a novel i'll stick to the couple real books I have left, and gradually make the transition to nook completely.
Noumenon
1 / 5 (2) Feb 10, 2010
Yes, clearly e-ink is superior, that's why I said "simulate" e-ink to an "acceptable" level.

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