Apple releases iBooks information

Apple has posted a webpage with details about the iBooks iPad app. There are a couple of points of particular interest to TeleReaders.

First of all, iBooks will allow you to “add free ePub titles to iTunes and sync them to the iBooks app on your iPad.” That’s right, the page specifically uses the word “free”. Presumably it means “DRM-free”—since iBooks won’t use or support ADEPT, if someone gave an ADEPT DRM-encumbered e-book away for free, it still would not work.

Still, this is good news for Baen readers, since even Baen’s commercially-sold e-books have no DRM, and all (except the contents of older Baen CDs) are available in DRM-free ePub format.

Second, iBooks will work with the iPad’s VoiceOver text-to-speech screen reader, “so it can read you the contents of any page.” A bit of odd phrasing, that; it implies that it stops at the end of the page and you have to turn the page manually before it will read you more.

Regardless, as Wired’s “Gadget Lab” points out, text-to-speech was a major sticking point with the Kindle 2, with the Authors Guild kicking up such a fuss that Amazon was forced to allow it to be disabled on a per-book basis. There is no word on whether the Authors Guild is going to make the same protests against Apple.

There is also no word yet whether a version of iBooks will be available for the iPhone. The fact that the URL of the iBooks page puts it squarely under the iPad category does not make me hopeful, but we will see.

8 Comments on Apple releases iBooks information

  1. I have a hard time believing that Apple would use the phrase “you can add free ePub titles to iTunes” and actually mean “DRM-free.” Considering how consumers would react to such an obvious bait-and-switch use of the word “free” in this context, it would be insane. Free is FREE.

    And I see they spent a lot of time designing the app to pretend it is a real book–maybe we should start calling this Pinocchio’s Syndrome.

  2. How would Apple know whether an ePub title is free? Some titles are free for a short time. Do you think you can add them to iTunes during the free period and not outside of it. I can’t believe that.

  3. Felix Torres // March 13, 2010 at 1:07 pm //

    The older BAEN CDs feature ebooks in HTML format using separae files for each chapter. Calibre produces excellent epubs from that.

    (Word is, early BAEN epubs were made that way.)

  4. I think “free” was the best way Apple could figure out of saying DRM-free without mentioning the “buzz-kill” word “DRM”—because most “free” books, like Baen’s, are also DRM-free.

    Really says something, don’t you think, if even Apple—who is breaking compatibility with ADEPT—knows that people don’t like to hear about DRM.

  5. Yeah, I was wondering about that word ‘free’ also. Voiceover will probably offer us no better than Amazon Kindle editions do today: a feature that publishers can turn on or off.

    And I’m wondering if Apple will allow for iPad apps that will unlock or read Adobe Digital Editions DRM epub books. They ought to, if their goal is to sell a ton of iPads; but if their real goal is to become a publishing monopoly, they won’t. And the way they’ve been running their app-approvals, nobody can say for sure, since Apple won’t.

    — asotir

  6. According to Adobe’s digital publishing blog, iBooks from Apple will not be compatible with any other epup reader, nor will epub books with amy other DRMs be readable on the iBooks app.

    http://blogs.adobe.com/digitalpublishing/2010/03/epub_and_ibooks.html

    Barnes & Noble and Amazon have already said they expect to have their own iPad apps, assuming Apple doesn’t throw a last minute knock out punch a la Google Voice.

    Given how closely Apple has worked with the major publishers, it would be pretty shocking if read-aloud functionality was unlimited.

  7. “add free ePub titles to iTunes and sync them to the iBooks app on your iPad.” Yes, you can. BUT, I’ll bet you can’t download a free book directly from the web and read it directly on the iPad.

    Hey iPhone/iPod Touch users: What can you download directly and use without using itunes on a separate computer? Can you download a file to the iPhone/iPod Touch via the web then open that file?

    If I want to read a Baen epub why do I need to go through iTunes?

  8. @Mike: Actually, that would be “all of them”. At the moment, iTunes doesn’t support syncing any e-books at all (apart from encapsulated appbooks, which are installed either via iTunes or via the app store interface on the device just like any other app). Or any other third-party files, for that matter. It is thought (or at least hoped) that will change with the “sandbox” folder in the iPad.

    Conversely, this means that every extant e-book app on the iPhone at the moment has to have its own separate method of syncing books.

    Stanza and Bookshelf: You can download books directly from the Internet within the reader (both these apps have a number of public-domain e-book catalogs set up by default, plus you can add Baen Webscriptions and others—so if you want to read a Baen EPUB in Stanza, it’s just a matter of going to the on-line library and pulling it down). Both these apps also have their own “servers”—conduit apps that you can run on your PC that will let you sync books into the device via Rendezvous; you can also run a Stanza server from within Calibre.

    eReader: You can download e-books from the Fictionwise.com and eReader.com stores directly by logging in—or you can download a book directly from the web by entering a special URL within Mobile Safari. Instead of “http://sitename.tld/filename.pdb” you enter “ereader://sitename.tld/filename.pdb” and it knows to call eReader for that file.

    As for loading your own books in, you either have to upload them into a personal directory on ereader.com or fictionwise.com, or else put them on a webserver of your own and enter the URL.

    Kindle Reader: It pretends it’s a Kindle, and syncs with your Amazon Kindle account via the Internet to download whatever books you “own” whenever you want. (There’s no way to load your own documents into this one.)

    iSilo, AirSharing, GoodReader: These apps have the ability to make your iPhone act like a network hard drive. You start the server, add an entry for it in “My Network Places” (or the equivalent on your Mac or Linux), then you can drag and drop files into it and they transfer across the network. I think GoodReader can download files from on-line, too, but I’ve never really looked into it.

    Given that you can currently purchase and install apps, podcasts, music, and movies directly from the iPhone and iPod Touch without having to go near a computer, I don’t think there’s any reason to think you couldn’t do the same for e-books when they come around for the iPad.

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