It’s hard to be objective about the iPad, which I acquired in San Jose on launch day, yesterday.
The reason I bought it (and the reason I suspect I have orders for several more) is to try to figure out just what it is useful for. I already have lots of devices, and the iPad sits somehow between my MacBook Air and Kindle DX, with the iPhone hovering for attention as well.
Since the purchase the Kindle has been dormant, the iPhone in normal, non-roaming, use and the Macbook Air has been at about 50%. The true test wil be when I get back to New Zealand – what devices will I travel with? Which devices will I use at home?
There is no doubt that the iPad is transformational, but it’s not a perfect working tool.
For example I purchased Apple’s word layout program Pages for the iPad, and originally wrote this post using that otherwise lovely application. However I failed to figure out how to copy the content from Pages over to the WordPress application or website, and I also failed to figure out how to easily upload the photos to WordPress. I did manage to upload them to Flicker using the iPhone Flickr uploader application (the screenshots on the previous posts were all uploaded directly from the iPad) but getting those links and inserting them into a post on a single mode device was just too painful.
But let’s look at how good the iPad is as a book reader – and see whether I can knock the Kindle out of my travel bag.
Kindle has an application for the iPad and, to cut a long post short, it’s the killer application for me. The application provides for an experience that is better than the Kindle application on any other device – including the Kindle itself, my Macs or iPhone.
I downloaded the free application, logged in to Amazon and got most of my books on to the iPad within a few minutes – all while setting the iPad up at the Apple store. The book selection screen is lovely – much better than the Kindle’s black and white list.
The books themselves downloaded quickly, and, even better, in full colour where appropriate.
However the iPad is not great in direct light. The screen reflects everything, and the battery life is not the best. It’s a lot heavier and fatter than the Kindle and you are constantly drawn to do something else – like lay games, check twitter or download some more expensive applications.
The Kindle device is strictly black and white, and takes an age to respond to commands and does only one thing. So while changing the page takes a second or two and fast flicking back and forth is simply out of the question, methodical reading of books from cover to cover is done superbly. Moreover the the Kindle has better resolution, a matt screen and much longer battery life.
However for fast readers the Kindle can be quite frustrating, and it’s useless for scanning through reference books, or even for looking back a couple of chapters to see who exactly was who again. So take your pick. Indeed – pick both, and use the iPad every day, and the Kindle when you really want to settle in with a book.
But all in all the iPad for me is a better Kindle than the Kindle. Most of my reading is over and done with inside of an hour, and the extra weight is more than made up for by the usability and the extra utility. But that’s after one day – let’s see how I feel after a week or three.
What does it mean?
I spent several hundred dollars with Apple yesterday – buying an iPad, the iWork suite and a bunch of other applications. Incidentally applications for the iPad seem to be 10x more expensive so far than aps for the iPhone – that’s the first mover advantage I guess. Despite the prices I’m going to keep buying applications through Apple, especially if the iWork suite (at $10 per application) is any indication of the quality level now possible.
But I was very happy to see my Kindle books appear on the iPad, and I will continue to buy books from Amazon rather than from Apple. The hundreds of thousands of new iPad owners also don’t need a Kindle to buy Kindle books – and so Amazon should do very well out of the iPad and like devices.
To keep selling Kindle devices Amazon will need to sharply drop the price, and focus on making them both lighter and more robust, and with a etter range of features. Kindles will remain the best (for now) for longer journeys, and for times and people when the extra distraction of the internet and games is not desired.
Meanwhile once again Apple has delivered a must-have product. Thus the fortunes of both companies is assured.
Sure – Amazon will at some stage emerge with a fast colour Kindle, and Apple will extend the range of books that they have and get better at selling them. But Amazon knows our tastes in books, knows how to deal with publishers, with authors and with readers who like reviewing, and increasingly knows, thanks in part to Apple, how to price correctly. Amazon also let me read my books on a bunch of different devices, so while there is, for now, digital rights management (DRM) on the books, the impact is negligible. Apple meanwhile knows what we want before we want it – a mark of a great design-led company – and will make more than enough money from the more expensive iPad applications to compensate for not locking in the ebook market quite yet. .