The expanded iPad section on the Apple website
now includes information about iBooks, the app that will be the focus of the e-reader strategy for the iPad, which one analyst thinks will be a huge money maker for the company. The information comes as Barnes and Noble - whose Nook device will be one of the main competitors to the iPad as an e-book reader - announced plans to release an iPad app of its own.
Apple's updated website now details the iBooks app for the first time
, revealing new information and confirming many of the guesses that have been floating around since the iPad introduction in January. The app, which will initially only be available in the US, will have to be downloaded from the App Store once people start receiving their iPads on April 3rd. By not making the iBooks app native, Apple is allowing competition for e-book reader apps. This could be an indication that the company is softening its traditional Apple-centric strategy, allowing users to get titles from existing e-book marketplaces in a play to make its new device more attractive.
The Apple website confirms reports that the app will support the open ePub standard, so that users will be able to import their existing ePub titles to their iPads in addition to content that they download from the iBookstore, Apple's "iTunes for e-books" marketplace. Apple has not commented on a report in the LA Times
that claimed Apple's FairPlay digital-rights management (DRM) technology used to protect iTunes videos will also lock e-books on the iBookstore. Even though ePub is supported, a concern of both open standards advocates and manufacturers of other e-readers is that FairPlay would lock content purchased on the iBookstore and keep it from being readable on other devices.
The new iBooks page describes the app's features, like the ability to go from single-page portrait to double-page landscape mode by rotating the iPad. You can touch-and-hold any word in an e-book to bring up a pop-up menu which will allow you to search for that word inside the e-book or on the Web, or look it up in either the built-in Dictionary app or Wikipedia. Content in iBooks will also be able to take advantage of VoiceOver technology, which uses the iPad's voice synthesizer to turn every book into an audiobook.
By selling content as well as offering an e-book reader for sale, Apple is taking on established e-book players like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, whose B&N eReader for iPad was announced yesterday
. Barnes & Noble's software already comes in PC, Mac, iPhone and BlackBerry versions, and allows users to access the more than 700,000 titles available on the Barnes & Noble eBook Store
. Like the iBooks app, the eReader app supports the ePub standard.
Apple is counting on the buzz surrounding the iPad - as well as the fact that the device is more than just an e-book reader - to propel it and the iBookstore to dominance in the growing e-book market. Broadpoint AmTech analyst Brian Marshall
estimates that Apple will bring in as much as 10% of the money it will make from iPad hardware sales in e-books and other content this year, and 30% in 2011.