Sneak Peek: The iPad’s iBookstore

So, I got a sneak peek of the iBookstore.

Books are my thing. So I’m here to share what I saw.

Not everything is up and running yet, as is to be expected. I’m sure things will be fine by Saturday, so I won’t dwell on any functional errors I encountered.

Instead, let’s get right into the meat of things with some screensnaps after the break!

Here is the front page of the iBookstore:


Click = big

The top banner changes with different book titles.

Let’s look closer.

Here I am in Free Books. I want to note the three sorting options that were available throughout the portions of the iBookstore I could use:


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That’s a bit odd. Right away, librarians reading this are going WTF? First, Name really should be Title. And there should be a sort on Author Name or Writer too. I’m sure in time Apple will add such a field. And possibly — hint! hint! — a field to search via ISBN.

I should point out that I couldn’t access distinct Categories for the iBookstore. I came into that front page, first screensnap, and couldn’t find any way to, say, call up Mysteries or Romance or Science-Fiction. This could be due to accessing it without, ahem, an iPad. I’m certain iPad owners will have such full access on Saturday.

Note that these Free Books (points to Apple for not calling them “eBooks”!) are from Project Gutenberg. And they all have a generic cover with title and author. I’ll be interested in seeing these on the iPad because ePub quality tends to vary greatly at PG. But hey, these are free and they are classics. No more will schoolchildren have to scramble to a school or public library to borrow paper or to a bookstore to buy paper. Parents, when your kid says he or she has to borrow the iPad for a book report, it’ll be true!

One of the big questions about the iBookstore is pricing. Here’s the price variability I witnessed:


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I didn’t see anything lower than $9.99. But that doesn’t mean anything because I didn’t have full access — plus, the store doesn’t seem to be fully populated yet. The highest price was $19.99 (see later). From what I saw, most prices will be $9.99.

Here’s the first page of Free Books sorted by Name (that is, Book Title):


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I’ll leave it up to librarians to leave Comments about that arrangement.

Here’s a page of New Fiction, arranged by Name (Title):


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And here is that $19.99 price:


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I want to point out something: do not pay any attention to the “73-90 of 116″ up there. The iBookstore isn’t fully populated and is still a work in progress. That number will change on iPad release day.

Here is more pricing variability:


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I wouldn’t take any of these prices as being permanent yet. These could all be fake numbers. We’ll really have to see firsthand on Saturday.

As I looked around, I got a sense that this is finally the tipping point for books.

I imagined myself using an iPad and looking at these.

So there I was, holding a device that cost between $500-$870. Looking at these books. And you know what I thought? I thought: These are books I can finally buy because this machine I’m holding is something that will be permanent in my life. It doesn’t feel like or look like a disposable thing, like every eInk device. Those will go away. The iPad will not.

I think that’s what millions of people are going to think too. And they are going to buy books in record numbers. They’ve already experienced such transactions with Apple by purchasing music, videos, and apps. They’ve bought those things because their iPods, Macs, and iPhones are seen as permanent in their lives. They will see the iPad in that same way too.

The iPad really does change everything for books.

Amazon’s days of domination are coming to an end.

If I was a print bookseller, I’d start planning an exit strategy and a new career.

The iPad is the future of the book. Period.

28 responses to “Sneak Peek: The iPad’s iBookstore

  1. Pingback: A glimpse at the iBookStore | iPad Watcher

  2. I guess I disagree with you. I don’t think the iPad has any more permanency in anyone’s life than a laptop or desktop computer. These are all replaceable.

  3. Just 5 more days and I’ll be buying books, App’s, and videos.

  4. While I agree that the iPad changes everything for books, I’m using “iPad” as a generic term for tablet. There are other tablets coming on stream that will cause a segmentation in the market.

    I, for one, am hesitant to buy into the Apple closed-system mentality. Came close to getting a new Mac, then instead upgraded by PC. Almost bought an iPhone last week, but instead settled on a Samsung Omnia II. Both of those decisions were made because of the tightly controlled environment.

    Still, I can’t wait to get a tablet myself. Certainly I’ll buy one before year’s end.

  5. “Amazon’s days of domination are coming to an end.”

    Oh, man, and just when I saw my first Kindle in the wild.

  6. Pingback: The Future of Books · Brenda Sedore – Literary Life

  7. Matt Johnston

    There won’t be an ISBN for any if the PG books. ISBNs are produced for every edition and format so getting an ISBN for a print book probably won’t help you find an ‘iBook’.

    The advantage of search will attempt to make up for this.

  8. I think you are a little overly optimistic about the millions of oncomers….but, a few things:

    First of all: release date? I know that is a multi-media thing but it doesn’t mean anything to me. Is that the pub date? the date it was put into digital format (like the recent Grisham catalog) the date it was loaded into Apple’s store? What?

    Name really SHOULD be title, unless it means author. If it means author, it should SAY author. If it doesn’t mean author, there should be a place for author. We may want to pretend these aren’t “books” and call things by different names, but they ARE BOOKS. They have titles, authors and pub dates, no matter how fancy.

    And I think it is a worldwide convention that we don’t sort titles by THE. (or A) Let’s not, in our rush to be new and innovative, get rid of the things that work.

  9. A distant future perhaps. It’s going to take a generation of people to grow up with this tech for it to become the main source, imo. You still have a sizable number of readers who still want paper, and those who also buy both versions. The price point is going to have to come down as well, as $500 is out of reach of many readers. Regardless, I believe the ipad is going to hasten the increase of ebook sales over the next year or so until things finally saturate and plateau. I don’t think bookstores are in immediate danger, but they certainly better start planning on a future where a growing population of readers accesses their reading entirely through digital formats.

  10. The three fields I showed in that snap were universal for the iBookstore. And you are so wrong about the ISBN. Tune into @ljndawson’s weekly Friday Twitterchats about book identifiers. ISBNs will always be needed. Even music has ID numbers and Apple uses that metadata internally, even if it’s not part of searching for music by customers. I didn’t believe in the ISBN being needed, either, but Dawson won me over.

  11. >>>And I think it is a worldwide convention that we don’t sort titles by THE. (or A)

    Yes. I cringed seeing that! Another reason why I’ve been banging the drum for Apple to get some librarians inside the workings of the entire iTunes Store — music, video, apps, and now books.

  12. >>>It’s going to take a generation of people to grow up with this tech for it to become the main source, imo.

    For some of us, it already will be and has been for those with eInk devices. I won’t buy paper at all. I’ll borrow it from the library but my days of tons of paper are over:

    http://ebooktest.wordpress.com/2008/12/31/the-horror-of-paper-books/

  13. I’m not saying “Don’t Use ISBN”.

    I remember the pain in getting an ISBN for the books I published. A separate one for every edition. Now is the Digital Replica of a certain edition going to be covered by the edition ISBN or by a new Digital ISBN for that edition/media.

    Who’s providing the ISBNs for the 30 000 books hoovered from Project Gutenberg?

  14. Apple has built a system where the majority of economically active consumers have bought into the dream. That’s why Apple can boast 100 million credit card numbers on file.

    That ecosystem is extremely compelling for developers.

    And to be honest, I have never felt restricted by the ‘closed system’ mentality. I’ve felt a lot more restricted when using Windows (WMA, WMV) and other vendors (Thomson, Sony Ericsson)

    I am curious about other tablets. I think the iPad shows that there is hunger for a tablet device that does not run a full desktop OS. Windows 7 tablets will not do the trick – Android on the other hand, will be extremely compelling.

  15. Just re Robin Bradford and ‘release date’, with eBooks on iPad the books quite possibly will be constantly updated, and of course you want to know which books are new to the store; it’s a whole different model to physical book sales, and these are the things that make selling digital goods work.

    While yes, all books on the store will have a first published date, I don’t see why you’d ever want to search through the top-featured books in that sense; ergo it becomes an implementation detail.

  16. Wow. Just… wow. This just made me more excited than I already was. Which is saying a hell of a lot, mind you.

  17. Steve, I don’t argue with that point. I, too, would want to know what is new to the store. I just quibble with the term “release date”. As it stands, I don’t know what it means. Does it mean new to the store or does it mean that’s the date the book was released? If I sorted a list of Grisham books by “release date” am I getting a list of when they were entered into the store or what? They were all “released” on the same day. I just wish the term were a little more clear, that’s all.

    Carry on, digitals, carry on.

  18. Pingback: Monday Midday Links: It’s Release Time Again | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary

  19. Robert, I think, judging by how Apple handles all its other media types on iTunes, that ‘release date’ means the date made public on the store. Perhaps they’ll have a browsing method to find books based on first published date, but this is not it.

    Cheers
    -S

  20. Christina Marie Castro

    Hey there. Thanks for this Mike! Very excited for the evolution of digital book shopping. One question for you: Were you able to click through to a title-dedicated screen for each of these titles? I’m picturing the iTunes pages for albums and how the top area features the album along with related media such as other albums by the same artist and music videos. I wonder if each book title page is prepped feature related media for download, like podcasts and book trailers.

  21. No, I couldn’t click through to individual books. But an individual book listing like that was shown in the original Steve Jobs demo as he looked at the one for the Kennedy book and then bought it on the spot.

  22. Will you be able to read these books in bright (or even not bright) sunlight?

    I have a Kindle – which I love, and am able to read my books on the beach, in the car, in my living room, anywhere I can read a paper book.

    One of the problems with a laptop or non e-ink reader is that the glare renders them useless outside.

  23. Hey, chum: thanks for keeping us apprised, a half step ahead of everyone else, as always.

    Is there any validity at all to the contention that Kindles are easier on the eyes than iPads? This is a canard that is tossed about fairly frequently and since you da man as far as this stuff goes…

  24. Pingback: Recommended: Mike Cane’s Sneak Peek at the iPad’s iBookstore

  25. Some people have vision issues that make eInk displays the best thing for them to read from. But this is a minority of people. Most people cite an “eye fatique” with LCDs — but when you question them, it turns out they’ve never bothered to turn down the backlight brightness! I’ve read a lot of books on my LifeDrive’s LCD. The backlight is always all the way down on it. One question that remains about the iPad is, How far can that backlight be turned down?

  26. Can people use their notebooks outside? Of course, but they tend to sit in the shade. I see people with notebooks in parks in NYC during the warm weather all the time. It’s odd you bring up the beach — that’s an objection paper fetishists raise about eInk devices!

  27. Pingback: Apple Dictates Max E-Book Prices and Big Publishing Is Scared | BNET Technology Blog | BNET at A little Goofy

  28. I really take issue with this comment. I have a Kindle and an iPhone. Last summer at the pool, I tried to bring my iPhone instead to read (with backlit LCD) and really couldn’t read anything on it in the bright sunlight. I have no such issue with my Kindle though. This isn’t something that people who eInk devices have created just to justify their purchase… it really does make a difference. And really – you made the point yourself here…. people with their notebook computers have to sit in the shade to use their computers… The point is, I don’t want to have to sit in the shade. I want to sit in the sun!