Why the iPad will change the e-reader

On: October 21, 2010
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About Mathijs Voordenberg
I’m Mathijs, a student New Media at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). In 2009 I finished my bachelor Media and Culture at the University of Amsterdam with a thesis about the public sphere of Youtube. In 2009-2010 I worked as vice-president of the Amsterdam student union (ASVA), As vice-president I was responsible for the human resource, the promotion and a couple of projects among which the election of the teacher of the year at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (the Amsterdam university of applied science). Next to my study I work as freelance photographer and filmmaker.

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E-readers are on the market for a while but the digital version of the book never got really popular. Readers were slow, dull, and not sexy at all. The image of the e-reader changed a couple of months ago with the introduction of the iPad. The iPad, which was never specially designed as an e-reader had and will have a huge effect on the e-reader market. I will mention a couple of reasons why the iPad will do so.

First of all, the iPad overcomes some of the e-readers problems. The iPad is fast, you can flip through the pages like you would do in a real book. And the increase of speed also brings a new variety of options. The iPad has a color screen, which made it more interesting for magazines to use the iPad as publishing platform. One of the other problems of e-readers was their interface and use of technology. The e-reader is a digital copy of the book. It’s like Ted Nelson’s critique mentioned  in this movie: ‘What are computer documents like? ‘They imitate paper […] paper enforces single sequence and there is no room for digression’. On a traditional e-reader there indeed is no room for digression. But because of the increased speed and possibility of connecting to the Internet, the iPad made a new interface possible. New programs like flipboard and books like Alice in wonderland came up with a “new” reading experience. Besides that, the iPad uses the social potential of the e-reader. It’s now possible to share or recommend an article or book to one of your friends, for example with Wireds new app. Another point where the iPad will change the e-reader is at the publishers side. For a long time Amazon dominated the e-reader market with the Kindle, and through this power Amazon was able to control the prices of e-books.

Now, with Apple’s iPad taking market share away from the Kindle reader, and other devices now gaining traction in the growing e-reader market (including Barnes & Noble’s Nook reader), publishers have succeeded in regaining more control over pricing.[1]

Beside that the iPad e-book store, iBook, offers authors the opportunity to sell their book directly to their readers.

Even thought the iPad “solves” a couple of problems of the traditional e-readers, the iPad isn’t a “real” e-reader. It was never designed as an e-reader and it doesn’t use e-inkt. But, obviously, it will change the way we think about e-readers. It brings a new “standard” and shows us were e-readers are capable of. With this new “standard” and the fact that Apple became a new major player in the e-reader market (According to Apple iBook gained already 22% of the market share), it’s clear e-readers have to adopt the new standards set by the iPad, and they probably will. New techniques will come to make this possible, for example faster displays without backlight like the Mirasol display. So hopefully, in a couple of years, we have the perfect e-reader, fast, in color, easy to read and with a new interface.

[1] Publishers win back control over e-book prices. Leddy, Chuck, Writer, 00439517, Aug2010, Vol. 123, Issue 8.

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