Apple resolved some of the guessing (and overheated estimates) by announcing this morning that they sold “over 300,000 iPads” on Saturday–including pre-orders and “deliveries” to partners like Best Buy. They say that “over 250,000 ebooks” were downloaded from the iBookstore on day one (presumably including free titles) along with over one million apps.
Among third-party book apps, the Kindle and Kobo apps were indeed live and working on the iPad, though Barnes & Noble’s app is not yet available. Going by ceo William Lynch’s quote to WSJ, it’s not clear whether it’s the bookseller’s fault or Apple’s: “We don’t have an exact date, but it will be there within the next two weeks. Apple certifies all apps, so it’s not totally in our control.”
The Kindle app works fine for reading, and like the other Kindle apps it gives you immediate access to books you’ve already bought. But the buying experience is effectively crippled since you cannot purchase from within the app; you have to go through the Safari browser, so one-click buying quickly turns into multi-click buying. By at least one online account, Apple would not allow buying from within the Kindle app. The Kobo app, on the other hand, does let you buy directly from within the app. (There were, however, initial problems with some book files themselves, according to multiple online reports.)
You are prompted to download the iBooks app when you launch the App Store, and the presentation is elegant–both in ease of purchase and in the way it displays your bookshelf (and your books; I preferred their default leading and fonts over the the other apps). Pricing is comparable, as we expected, so you can see how customers would naturally gravitate towards using iBooks unless they want to sync books across other Kindle devices and apps. Or if they want a bigger store to shop from.
By most reports the iBookstore launched with 60,000 titles paid titles and 30,000 free titles, in contrast to Kindle’s claimed 450,000 titles. (When Kindle launched in late 2007, they had just under 90,000 titles.) The iBookstore selection feels a little thin as you start to browse and it’s hard to find books from any publishers except for the Agency Five. (Among other publishers with titles in the iBookstore are Sourcebooks and F+W Media.) Of course we know that it has been a rolling start for the iBookstore, and that title count is going to rise quite quickly. But the store is clearly lacking in metadata–Apple has not licensed any reviews or other collateral editorial to go with the book listings.
Customers scared of price hikes under the agency model may find themselves relieved. Of the top 15 NYT fiction bestsellers listed, under the new pricing model 9 titles are still at $9.99, with one book at $10.99, two at $11.99, and three at $12.99. Meanwhile, Amazon has flagged books from the Agency Five with a new note saying “this price was set by the publisher.” As expected, Hachette Book Group’s ebooks were live again at Amazon as of Saturday, and there is no sign of any new limitations on Penguin books through site. While hardcover pricing under agency continues to look aggressive (driven, in part, by Apple’s strictly negotiated price baskets), pricing on mass-market paperbacks is closer to parity with print editions.
A lot of first opinions rest on the experience with the backlit (and high-gloss glass) screen. The screen suffers the most in bright sunlight, naturally (Just like laptops, which people and read and work on all the time), which is exactly where eInk screens excel. So the promo for Kindle on Amazon’s home page now highlights that it’s “easy to read, even in bright sunlight.” But the screen is great in all other lighting conditions, including low and no (e.g. in bed) light. Personally, I read half of GAME CHANGE over the weekend on the iPad and enjoyed the reading experience–after I got over the neck ache in the first hours of figuring out where and how to hold the device when I use it.
As for other reading matter, newspapers and magazines are vastly superior on the iPad to the crippled Kindle versions, and for some people will be vastly better than paper versions. (I prefer the WSJ iPad app to both the paper version and the web version, for example.)
And of course, the iPad is lot more than “just” a reader. Which for the bulk of the world’s population is going to be part of its appeal. People who want a purpose-built device for reading books and nothing else are still likely to favor eInk machines. But particularly now that the specious price incentive to justify a book-only device has been degraded, that may remain a small, if core, group of people.