Before launching the iBook Store for his brand new iPad device, Apple supremo Steve Jobs paid tribute to Amazon’s role in blazing a trail for the E-Book revolution, saying Apple was going to "stand on their shoulders."
In virtually the same breath, it seems that Jobs is planning to cruise down that same highway in his 18-wheeler iTruck and barge Amazon off the road at the first opportunity. The battle for electronic book supremecy is officially on.
So which device has the upper hand heading into battle? The Apple iPad or the Amazon Kindle DX? Which outfit is best equipped to wage this war?
Apple’s iPad device was dubbed ‘just a big iPod’ by many observers last night, but one advantage of that bright, clear 9.7-inch colour LED touchscreen is its suitability for its new iBook medium.
The consensus view from those lucky enough to get hands-on time with the device in San Francisco was that the iPad offers a greater, more realistic book-like experience than the Kindle with great depth and, despite the brightness, a screen that will not cause strain on the eyes. The Kindle DX doesn’t have a touchscreen, let alone the benefit of capacitive multitouch, and opts for the E-Ink format rather than the colour screen.
When weighing up the features it appears that the iPad outstrips the new Kindle DX in most categories. Both have the same 9.7-inch screen size, although the Kindle DX is lighter (1.18lbs vs 1.5lbs) and thinner (0.36-inches vs 0.5-inches) than the iPad.
iPad buyers primary reason for purchase is unlikely to be to use as an E-Book reader. The iBook Store is simply one of many functions, building on what is already available on the iPhone and iPod touch.
Most of the apps on the App Store will work, including a host of touchscreen games, and applications such as iWork, which has been specifically redesigned with new features for the iPad. There’s also beautiful interfaces for web browsing, email, calendar, maps, contacts and media storage. There’s also the far superior sheen of Apple’s online stores present in the iBook Store.
On top of that, there’ll be instant, on-the-go access to the iTunes store for high definition movie and music downloads. Newspapers and magazines also look magnificent (based on the screenshots we’ve seen so far) showcasing a web browsing experience which retains the design integrity of a print publication.
It’s quite a package compared to the reader, which offers a simple web browser, as well as newspaper and magazine subscriptions, but the Kindle designed to suit one purpose; to read electronic books on-the-go.
Speaking of on-the-go. The iPad boasts WiFi and Bluetooth in all models and 3G for an extra $130 (and a whopping monthly charge of up to $30 a month from AT&T), whereas the Kindle DX can only shout about 3G.
Apple also appears to have learned its lesson from the DRM-free iTunes music fiasco, by offering its iBooks in the open ePub format; Amazon’s Kindle format has caused problems for users of its device in the past. Amazon does have the edge on battery life, lasting 4 days compared to Apple’s boast of 10 hours, but we can see where that extra battery life goes.
In terms of cost, the Amazon Kindle DX is $489 (while the smaller Kindle 2 is $259) compared to the iPad’s starting price of $499 for the 16GB model. Add the necessary 3G connection into the mix and we have a quite favourable champ in the Apple device. The 16GB 3G iPad will only cost $140 more than the Amazon Kindle DX, and with the comparisons in mind, an iPad seems a much better deal.
All that awaits now is to discover how much the top titles will cost. Amazon is a far cheaper medium for MP3 downloads than iTunes, and if this can be replicated in the book market, then the Kindle will certainly have a better chance of maintaining it’s market lead.