The Apple Event is over. I followed three live blogs: Ars Technica’s (which is hard to get into, being at capacity), Wired’s, and Gizmodo’s (which has plenty of pictures). There is plenty of e-book-related detail, including a New York Times iPad-native app and the new iBooks app and store.
I will hit the technical details first, then cover e-book matters in detail below the jump.
The interesting facts about the new iPad are being quoted in detail on dozens of news sources, so I will just summarize: it is basically like an iPod Touch only bigger, with a 9.7”, 1024x768 @ 132 pixels-per-inch screen, 16, 32, or 64 gigs of storage, reportedly 10 hours of battery life and a month of standby power. The complete tech specs are now available on Apple’s website.
Device price is to be $499/$599/$699 for 16/32/64-gig capacity (add $130 to each price point for a 3G-capable model), and it begins shipping in 60 days (90 days for the 3G model). (Go here to sign up to be notified when it is available to order.) This is an iPod Touch-style price: no contracts or obligations factor into it.
This is an interesting price point, to be sure: for twice the price of a $259 2-gig Kindle 2, or just a little more than the $430 4-gig Kindle DX, you get a color device with four to eight times the storage and much more flexibility. Though unlike with the Kindle, the iPad’s 3G data plans cost extra.
Wifi and Data Plans
All devices will have 802.11n wifi, and some will have 3G capacity as well. Apple and AT&T will offer two optional pre-paid 3G data plans for the 3G model: a 250-megabyte plan for $14.99 per month, or an unlimited plan for $29.99 per month. Both plans will also allow free use of AT&T wifi hotspots, such as those at Starbucks.
Unlike most wireless device plans, these optional plans will be pre-paid with no contract lock-in, and can be enabled or cancelled at any time from a control panel on the device itself. The device will be sold unlocked to permit possible use with other carriers.
Existing iPhone apps will work run at native resolution in the middle of the screen, or can be pixel-doubled to run in low-resolution full-screen. A new iPhone SDK to add native iPad compatibility comes out today.
Papers and Books
But later in the event, Steve Jobs showed a photo of the Kindle on the slideshow and said, “Amazon has done a great job of pioneering this, but we’re going to stand on their shoulders and go a step further.”
He then introduced iBooks, which bears a suspicious resemblance to the iPhone’s “Classics” app—stored books appear on a handsome wooden bookshelf, and the pages look like a “real paper book”. iBooks will launch with titles from publishers Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, MacMillan, and Hachette.
iBooks will feature the same instant-buy-and-download capacity we have come to expect from the Kindle or third-party iPhone e-book applications. It reportedly uses the ePub format, though there is no word on whether its DRM will be compatible with third-party ePub readers.
There is also no word on whether an iBooks app will be available for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Publisher Price Points
According to an article from the Wall Street Journal that David Rothman instant-messaged to me, Apple has asked publishers to set hardcover prices at “$12.99 and $14.99, with fewer titles offered at $9.99.” As with apps in its store, Apple would take 30% of the book price, with publishers getting 70%.
As the Journal points out, this is significantly different from the publishing industry’s usual 50%-of-list-price model, where a $28.95 hardcover book is sold to Amazon for $14.50 then Amazon can set whatever price it wishes.
A $14.99 Apple e-book will only net the publisher $10.49. But, on the other hand, that is still more than they would make if they had to price their books so Amazon could sell at $9.99 and make a profit.
There is still no word on what this means for other e-book vendors in the iPhone store. Will eReader, Stanza, Kobo, and other apps be dropped from the store, or have new iPad-native versions refused?
Certainly Apple has been reluctant to allow apps that “duplicated functionality” in the past, and these stores do not earn Apple anything—unlike its 30% take on iBooks. Still, it would seem like a shoddy way to reward apps that helped them sell their iPod Touch and iPhone to begin with—not to mention cause angry revolts from consumers who have already invested in e-book libraries from those vendors.
On the other hand, there have been rumors that both Barnes & Noble and Amazon are bringing their respective iPhone e-book reading apps to the Apple tablet. (And a New York Times report today (found via TechFlash) suggests Amazon seems to believe it will be able to sell books on the iPad too.) If these are true, then perhaps Apple will brook competition to its iBooks store after all.
We will certainly provide additional coverage as more information becomes available.
(Pictures thumbnailed from Gizmodo liveblog.)