Well, everybody, what do we think? The first picture I saw today that showed the iPad next to a Kindle, I thought, Why in the hell would anybody buy the Kindle?
Well, there are certainly reasons, the main ones being price, and the difference between electronic ink and a backlit LCD. But perhaps the iPad screen isn't as fatiguing to look at as a laptop screen (it's an IPS display, as well, which certainly makes it nicer to look at from an angle); perhaps it would be a delight to read a book on it. The page turning animation is quite impressive, and the iBooks store has rather a cute interface--an implausibly uncluttered bookcase that flips around to reveal a bookstore.
As our son Owen said, I'd sure like it if our real bookcases had a bookstore behind them. In the case of the virtual bookstore, I'd sure like it if independent publishers were represented there. But upon first blush, the whole package looks very impressive, especially if you're also in the market for a small email and video-viewing machine.
All of that said, this is the first time I've truly felt that independent new bookstores were doomed. Apple, by creating a highly appealing, reasonably-priced gadget that, among other things, will sell you electronic books, is casually dictating the future of publishing. (Similarly, the incapacity of the iPad to run Flash isn't really a liability--rather, it spells the death knell of Flash. Nobody will want to have a web site you can't view on the iPad.)
And finally, however nice it might be to read books on this thing, it won't be as nice as reading a real one, at least not for me. As an e-reader, it seems to be solving a problem that not only isn't a problem--it's an inadequate technology, cleverly but unnecessarily mimicking an already perfect one. But our habits change with the technology, for better or worse. And for better or worse, I think the publishing industry just got a big wake-up call.