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iPad meh, iBook ooh?

The iPad announcement has come and there wasn’t much to surprise out at the front – 10″ish screen, running iPhone OS, new look and feel for a bunch of apps… Basically a big iPod Touch/iPhone with optional 3G. It’s a very shiny thing but I suspect that I won’t get one, despite lusting after it with deeply repressed fanboy-ness, as I don’t think I’d use it.

Anyways, there was interesting stuff. Other than it containing a new chip, Apple’s A4, which I’d not heard of before, Steve Jobs mentioned the iTunes Book Store (or whatever they will christen it) and a few bits and pieces that have been floating around have come together. He acknowledged that Amazon have led the way with the Kindle Store, but if my hopes aren’t dashed things will hopefully get better from here on in.

The first piece of info that I heard through the various rumour sites and also via last night’s McGraw-Hill info leak was that Apple have been working with the publishers to get ebooks out there. So far so Amazon. However, one thing that popped up, which I can’t find a source for other than Kosso on Twitter (Update: from the Engadget feed – The Steve said it at 10:57), is that Apple are going to use ePub as their ebook format. This opens up a number of possibilities depending on decisions that are made:

1) What DRM will they be using? While Adobe have a fairly tight grip on the DRM’d ePub market with Digital Editions, Apple do like doing things on their own. However, with the gradual decrease of DRM on iTunes music is there a chance that they might do the same thing here? Could Apple get behind a movement to get DRMless ebooks?

2) If we end up with no DRM or an industry standard will they allow transfer of books to non-Apple devices? If I could buy books from the Apple store and stick them on my Sony Reader then I would be a happy man. Especially if it didn’t require Digital Editions.

3) What are they going to charge? Unfortunately this does seem to be the place where things will fall down – the rumour mill suggests that they’ll be pricing at US hardback prices – $13-15 rather than Amazon’s $10 for new releases. This is still more pricey than the physical equivalents, but if they come down to be closer, like mp3s have (they generally still cost more than discounted older CDs) then this will lower the resistance to buy at least on my part.

It also looks interesting on the unit cost side. Based on the US prices (with added VAT and ‘You live in the UK’ tax) I reckon we’ll see the lowest model clock in at between £400 and £450 ($500+VAT is about £360 at the moment), and my overly precise guess is £429 – Apple like their £x29s. I suspect that the 3g models will be bumped by a bit over £100 (maybe £120 – the $139 premium works out at about £95), although they’re keeping quiet about when those might appear.

So, we get a moderately flexible device with a colour screen and ok battery life for $499. The Kindle DX, with a similar sized screen, currently clocks in at $489 – only $10 cheaper. If Apple get their bookstore running nicely then I suspect that Kindle sales might start feeling the pinch, although that’s a very big if – taking on Amazon could be a foolish move. I’ll be interested to see how Apple’s relationship with Google continues as the latter starts eating the book market with the Google Books settlement inexorably rolling closer…Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

In an ideal world Apple would put up a DRM free ePub store with a similar or better to Amazon range of titles available worldwide, with no restrictions on getting them onto a compatible reading device. I suspect that we won’t get this, with custom DRM wrapped around the epub and no support outside of Apple devices for a good while, if not forever. I can only hope that their experience with iTunes music informs their decisions more than the movie store.

Update: It seems that I’m not the only pessimistic one – Defective By Design have a petition up asking for Apple to stop DRMing everything. I’ve signed up, not that I think it’ll do much good.

With that, there’s the sort-of-opposite opinion – that this is a great day for open software. With Apple’s continued restriction of on platform software they are forcing people to the cloud, says Yehuda Katz. Annoyingly I like to work offline, as I kinda agree.

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