The iPad May Kill the Kindle, But Amazon Could Still Come Out Ahead: The Only Comparison You Need to Read
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turning the pages of a real book. In a bit of utterly useless but fun embellishment, iBooks even simulates a curling page as you drag your finger from right to left. All that’s missing is the fluttery paper sound.
With a color screen, you can also do cool things like changing the background and text shades. (I particularly like the “sepia” setting on the Kindle iPad app.) I admit that I originally thought the iPad’s big color screen wouldn’t make much of a difference when it comes to relatively static content like text. I was wrong—it’s a game changer.
2. The Books.
In the race to build a big catalog of e-books, Amazon still has a big lead on Apple. There are almost half a million titles available for the Kindle, compared to a reported 60,000 for iBooks at launch. But here’s the thing: The iPad is also a Kindle. In a remarkable act of self-cannibalization—or maybe it’s just a case of if-you-can’t-beat-em-join-em—Amazon has built a free Kindle app for the iPad that lets iPad owners read any Kindle edition that Amazon sells.
On the iPad, you can shop for titles at Amazon’s website using the device’s built-in Safari browser. All the books you buy go into your Kindle archive, from whence they can be downloaded to any Kindle-ready device, meaning an iPhone, an iPad, or an actual Kindle. The “WhisperSync” feature built into the Kindle app means you can switch between these devices, and always pick up right where you left off.
Because I have so many Kindle editions stacking up that I haven’t finished reading yet, I haven’t bought any iBooks titles so far—and I don’t really plan to. Why would I, when Amazon is giving me the best of both worlds? In fact, I think I’ll probably keep buying most or all of my e-books from Amazon, and reading them on whatever device is most handy.
I have a philosophical as well as a practical reason for this policy. As I explained in a February column, Apple is using an “agency” model for iBooks under which publishers are, in theory, free to slap higher prices on iBooks editions than Amazon long imposed for Kindle editions. In practice, publishers seem to be charging the same prices so far on both platforms: for example, both the Kindle version and the iBooks version of A River in the Sky, a New York Times bestseller by Elizabeth Peters, go for $12.99, and I haven’t been able to find any examples of big price differences this week. But as articles by Ken Auletta and other analysts have detailed, publishers eager to get around Amazon’s former $9.99 e-book price ceiling have been gleeful about the Apple agency model, and may simply be waiting for the right moment to jack up the prices on iBooks titles. My own opinion is that e-books shouldn’t cost much more than $9.99, so I’m avoiding iBooks on principle until this whole thing settles out.
3. The Other Apps.
If you don’t like Apple’s iBooks app, you can get e-books for your iPad from Lexcycle or Kobo or Amazon or dozens of other distributors who have published iPad apps. That’s because the iPad is a multipurpose device—a literal blank slate, built specifically to support a huge range of software for learning, entertainment, and productivity.
The Kindle, on the other hand, is a single-purpose device, built specifically for reading e-books—and only e-books purchased from Amazon. If you don’t like Amazon, there isn’t much reason to own a Kindle. Despite the drone of criticism from the digerati over the supposedly closed nature of the iPad/iPhone ecosystem, and despite Amazon’s plans for allowing third-party apps on the Kindle, its hardware is far more closed and less versatile than Apple’s.
A case in point: Vook. A couple of months ago I reviewed two iPhone apps from the Emeryville, CA-based startup—a Sherlock Holmes double-header enhanced with clips filmed in Holmes’s native London, and Gary Vaynerchuck’s Crush It!, a motivational business title spiced up with the hyper-extroverted wine entrepreneur’s videos. Now Vook has 32 titles for the iPad, including an amazing one called Best of Times; it’s a collection of 14 experimental videos created by Brooklyn filmmaker and New York Times blogger Jeff Scher, framed as an e-book, with commentary by the filmmaker about … Next Page »