Today’s nugget of awesome: the iPad syncs EPUB files

I did something amazing today. I held out for nearly four hours before pre-ordering an iPad. Seriously. That’s a huge deal for me. I mean, I own the Apple Airport Extreme, okay? I’ve got an Apple TV and a…

iPad

I did something amazing today.

I held out for nearly four hours before pre-ordering an iPad. Seriously. That’s a huge deal for me. I mean, I own the Apple Airport Extreme, okay? I’ve got an Apple TV and a Mac Mini. My Apple fanboyism teeters on psychosis.

To reward me for my loyalty (and my recent herculean effort and inevitable cave-in), Apple continues to release details on the iPad that have nipped any lingering buyer’s remorse in the bud. For example, there’s this info delight that comes courtesy Wired’s Gadget Lab:

And for EPUB titles that are not offered through the iBooks store, you can manually add them to iTunes and then sync them to the iPad … That’s good news for iPad customers, because that means bookworms won’t be limited to the offerings in the iBooks store, which are based on partnerships that Apple inked with publishers.

This is a genius move on two fronts:

1. It makes the iPad semi-open. If you’ve already got EPUB files hanging around, you can port them to the iPad. And if you buy future EPUB-based books from smart publishers that support the format (ahem), you should be able to sync those titles with the device as well. The original iPod took off because it automatically worked with the pre-existing MP3 collections people had built up. Now, there aren’t that many people out there with EPUB stockpiles. I realize that. But if you do have those files, or you want to buy material outside the iBookstore down the road, you can read all that stuff on the iPad. Well played, Apple.

2. It puts Amazon in a bind because the Kindle doesn’t support EPUB by default. Now that the iPad does support the format natively, that makes the Kindle even more restrictive. Think about that. Apple — the poster child for a totalitarian product ecosystem — is making Amazon look like the bad guy.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to say about the iPad in coming days. Lord knows I can’t stop tweeting about it. But for now, I’ll revel in the anticipated joy the weekend of April 3-4 will bring: iPad on 4/3 and Red Sox opening night on 4/4.

Ebook pricing gets even more interesting: Apple’s model vs. Amazon’s subsidy

Tablets and devices will get all the coverage, but I believe ebook pricing is going to be 2010’s biggest issue for publishers. To illustrate … this New York Times piece explains how Apple’s $12.99-$14.99 range represents the outer limit…

iPad and Kindle

Tablets and devices will get all the coverage, but I believe ebook pricing is going to be 2010’s biggest issue for publishers.

To illustrate … this New York Times piece explains how Apple’s $12.99-$14.99 range represents the outer limit for iBooks pricing. Those price points aren’t set in stone. From the Times:

<blockquote

… Apple inserted provisions requiring publishers to discount e-book prices on best sellers — so that $12.99-to-$14.99 range was merely a ceiling; prices for some titles could be lower, even as low as Amazon’s $9.99. Essentially, Apple wants the flexibility to offer lower prices for the hottest books, those on one of the New York Times best-seller lists, which are heavily discounted in bookstores and on rival retail sites. So, for example, a book that started at $14.99 would drop to $12.99 or less once it hit the best-seller lists.

Sounds like Apple and Amazon are closer than we initially thought, right?

Nope. Not at all.

The single most important sentence in that Times article is buried at the very end:

Under the agreements with Apple, both the publishers and Apple should make money on each book sale. [Emphasis added.]

Ahh, there we go! Whether the price is $14.99, $12.99, $9.99 or $1.99, Apple will take its 30 percent. Set the price lower and sell more books? You betcha! Jack the price up and sell fewer? Absolutely!

What Apple won’t do is subsidize a price point.

Hey Amazon, this is what you need to do with the Kindle

Books lock content into a container by default. There’s no easy way to excerpt or share or disseminate. But digital sets that content free, and that means hardware that delivers digital content needs to facilitate that freedom. False obstacles that…

Books lock content into a container by default. There’s no easy way to excerpt or share or disseminate. But digital sets that content free, and that means hardware that delivers digital content needs to facilitate that freedom. False obstacles that seek to duplicate the limitations of print are ridiculous. Hear that, Amazon?

Thankfully — seriously, thank God for this — it looks like magazine publishers are getting the message. From the New York Times:

Sports Illustrated’s demonstration version — developed with the Wonderfactory, a design firm — lets readers organize the magazine by subjects like baseball or football. They can circle photographs or articles and use a toolbar to e-mail an article, print it, view comments, view related items, see relevant Twitter posts or save the article to a favorites file. They can rearrange the order of the issue, see dozens of photos that don’t make it into print and pull live scores from all the teams they follow. [Link and emphasis added.]

One last thing. I try to include a source link with all of my tweets and excerpts; just a little something that allows people to go deeper if they’re so inclined. That’s why tablet editions need a link-to feature. It could take the form of a web-based version of the article (with advertising and marketing all around it, of course). Perhaps it’s some sort of intermediate, email-to-a-friend edition. Maybe it’s an iTunes-esque redirect. I really don’t care what the links look like. They just need to be there.

The Kindle is a big, shiny, distracting object

Hey book people: don’t be fooled by the Kindle. Amazon has no interest in hardware. That’s the conclusion Joe Wikert reaches in an excellent bit of analysis. I couldn’t agree more. The Kindle is a big, shiny object that’s distracting…

Hey book people: don’t be fooled by the Kindle. Amazon has no interest in hardware.

That’s the conclusion Joe Wikert reaches in an excellent bit of analysis. I couldn’t agree more. The Kindle is a big, shiny object that’s distracting everyone from Amazon’s more subversive (and smart) move: It’s trying to become the source of ebooks. It doesn’t want to own that market. It wants to rule it.

It’s entirely possible that Jeff Bezos and Co. originally sought to duplicate Apple’s iPod-iTunes model. But take a look at the evidence Joe presents: At some point in the last two years, Amazon realized it’s not Apple. The hardware gambit only works if you create something miraculous. The iPod and iPhone certainly qualify as technical marvels. Spend 30 seconds with an Apple product and you’ll come away deeply impressed. Spend 30 seconds with a Kindle and you’ll want your 30 seconds back.

Amazon just can’t cut it in the hardware game. I bet the higher-ups don’t particular care, either. This is a company that redefined retail efficiency. It’s masterful at satisfying consumer demand, more so than Apple or even the big daddy of the retail chain, Wal-Mart. Publishers need to realize — and the smart ones already do — that the Amazon threat doesn’t lie in a device. It’s in the distribution.

Amazon Resurrects Orwell Annotations and Opens a New Can of Worms

In an attempt to tie up the Orwell debacle, Amazon is offering affected customers replacement copies of “1984” or “Animal Farm” and the reinstatement of any personal annotations. From the New York Times: Amazon said in an e-mail message to…

In an attempt to tie up the Orwell debacle, Amazon is offering affected customers replacement copies of “1984” or “Animal Farm” and the reinstatement of any personal annotations. From the New York Times:

Amazon said in an e-mail message to those customers that if they chose to have their digital copies restored, they would be able to see any digital annotations they had made. [Emphasis added.]

It’s been more than a month since Amazon extracted the questionable Kindle editions, yet assumed-dead user notes now spring phoenix-like from the Orwellian ashes. Why the delay? Amazon, it would appear, claims jurisdiction over the saving, disassociation, and, if it’s feeling magnanimous or motivated, full reinstatement of user notes according to its own schedule.

Playing devil’s advocate, it may be that Amazon felt the controversy surrounding the Orwell deletions warranted back up of the notes, and perhaps the restoration delay was tied to a rights issue. But even with these (potential) explanations, a “surprise note resurrection” reeks of creepiness. If Amazon didn’t delete annotations associated with illegal books — an unfortunate but reasonable bit of collateral damage — then what does it delete? Are the mistakes and alterations in my shopping cart history burned into a permanent record? Can a deleted S3 file miraculously reanimate? I can’t help but raise an eyebrow toward all of Amazon’s services, which is a shame since I admire the company’s non-Kindle offerings.

Amazon’s Kindle Kill Switch Now Fully Operational

Update, 7/17, 9:36PM: Ars Technica gets to the bottom of the Orwell deletions. The ebooks weren’t legitimate and Amazon’s system automatically deleted the copies, which is even more unsettling than a manual kill command. According to Ars, Amazon is changing…

Update, 7/17, 9:36PM: Ars Technica gets to the bottom of the Orwell deletions. The ebooks weren’t legitimate and Amazon’s system automatically deleted the copies, which is even more unsettling than a manual kill command. According to Ars, Amazon is changing the system to prevent future auto-deletion.


We already knew Amazon could reach into Kindles and disable text-to-speech functionality, but now comes word that Amazon invoked the kill switch on copies of “1984” and “Animal Farm” (irony unintended, but appreciated):

… apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.

Remote wipes / kill switches are fine if they’re controlled by the consumer (e.g. MobileMe’s remote iPhone wipe is an excellent feature), but this manufacturer overlord business is foolishness. If I buy a product — digital or otherwise — you do not have the right to dispatch your deletion ninjas on my file on my device.