My First 36 Hours with the iPad

Eric FreeseBy Eric Freese, Solutions Architect, Aptara

First of all, a disclaimer:  While I did own the only Apple ][ in my college dorm—and wish I’d bought Apple stock when it was $40 and my financial adviser didn’t think it would go much higher—I am not an Apple fanboy.  Only recently did I cash in airline miles for an iPod Touch so I could hone my eReading skills (and of course, score cool points with my kids), so don’t expect a gushing “this is going to change the world” review.

My iPad arrived bright and early Saturday morning.  I was running errands so it languished in its box for several extra hours after its trip from China.  Once home, the unboxing was quite the attraction as my kids crowded around me begging for the opportunity to use it first.  Fortunately, Dad wins in these situations, so I went about downloading free apps, books and songs to give it a good test drive.  I work for an eBook production company, so I was particularly interested in the device’s eReader capabilities (which I’ll get to shortly).

For starters, the iPad just feels good in your hands.

At 1.5 pounds, it’s light enough to carry, though I wouldn’t want to hold it out in front of me for long periods of time.  Steve Jobs was spot-on in describing it as “beautiful” in a geeky sort of way; I felt like Captain Picard on the bridge of the Enterprise as I walked about the house.  The screen is crisp and clear, and the iPad-specific apps look terrific on the large screen.  Most of the iPhone apps look pretty good as well, though some lose their clarity when expanded to fill the larger screen.

I downloaded the iBook app, as well as a set of books my company uses to demo eReader units; they all loaded as expected.  The screen brightness automatically adjusts based on ambient light conditions, so the reading experience was fairly good sitting in my living room and downstairs in my office (aka man cave).  Output brightness can be adjusted, which is ideal if you have a bed partner who is as sensitive to light at night as mine is.  But outdoors was a different story, as predicted.

The glare and reflections from the highly reflective glass made it very difficult to see the screen on a sunny day.

iBooksThe iPad’s book reading experience is very similar to most other eReader devices; ePUB-based files displayed as expected.  In portrait mode, you see a single page at a time.  In landscape mode, you see two pages in an “open book” layout, though it doesn’t equate to twice as much text.  The animated page turn is a nice, but unnecessary, feature for a truer book-like experience.  The table of contents and book scroller make navigating within an eBook simple.

My most disappointing iPad experience occurred with perhaps its most highly anticipated feature – a component of its enhanced eBook capability.  When I clicked on a web link in my eBook, a message popped up asking me if I “want to leave iBooks and open this link?”  Well no, I didn’t, but apparently I didn’t have a choice.

When I clicked the link (to another eBook file) the browser then asked me if I would like to open the file—IN STANZA!!!

Because the iBook app depends on iTunes to manage its content, simple access to other eBooks is not feasible.  This clumsy and unexpected user interface is possibly a significant downfall in the iPad’s support for interactivity. Web links are frequently mentioned as a class of enhancements; having to acknowledge leaving a book every time a link is selected gets tiresome fast.

In an effort to run the device through all of its eReader paces, I downloaded the New York Times Editors Choice and USA Today apps.  Not surprisingly, the iPad’s large, high-quality screen provided a very good newspaper reading experience—including ads, which might provide a new revenue stream for the struggling newspaper industry.  Whether it’s enough to save newspapers is another story.

Twilight Graphic Novel for the iPadNext I downloaded Hachette’s Twilight graphic novel.  (When did they cease being called comic books?) I was impressed with how slick it looked and worked. Many predict that the iPad will increase graphic novel sales; I look forward to following the reality, since as a kid, one of the coolest things about comic books was trading them with my buddies.

I downloaded the Kindle app for the iPad and browsed through some sample books.  It felt very similar to reading on a Kindle device, except navigation through the book was done using screen swipes rather than pushing buttons (and doesn’t include the page turn animation that is in the iBook app).  However, to download previously purchased Kindle books, browse the Kindle store and make purchases, the app opens the browser to the Amazon site.  Assuming you have a Kindle account, you can direct the site to download your content to the iPad app.

Next to its screen size and capacity, herein is perhaps the biggest benefit of the iPad as an eReading device − its ability to purchase and download eBooks from any retailer (assuming Barnes and Noble releases their app soon).

This might actually drive prices down since the iPad enables direct head-to-head competition between eBook retailers.

Many suspected that Apple would block apps from Amazon and Barnes and Noble, abiding by their rule of not duplicating core functionality on Apple devices.  But when they announced that the iBooks app would not come preinstalled on the iPad, they opened the door to other apps.   The device’s interoperability with other eReader stores suggests that the iPad could replace the PC, and all other single function eReaders, as the dominant reading platform.

Disney Digital Books: Toy Story on the iPadThere is a notable difference in presentation between eBooks sold as apps and those sold through the iBookstore as EPUB-formatted books; the former are simply stunning.  I downloaded the Grimm’s Fairy Tales app from Vook and the Disney Toy Story app.  Although I’m not sure what the videos contributed to the stories in the Vook app, it was interesting how video could be included in-line with the text of the story.

In the Disney app, however, I was simply amazed at the graphics and use of different layers within the images to produce an almost 3D effect.  My youngest child (8 years old) got the privilege of playing with the book/app; she loved being able to turn off the read-along feature, sing along with the songs from the movies, and color scenes from the book.

Since the iPad was announced, I’ve been wondering how practical it would be for activities other than reading.  Turns out it’s very handy for visiting websites or checking email from anywhere.  With seven children, our Sunday evening ritual is reviewing the upcoming week’s activities calendar against the family’s schedule.  The iPad’s large touch screen made it quick and easy to review the school’s website while standing in the kitchen and relaying calendar updates to my wife.

The iPad has been touted as a great media player for music and videos. The music player was indeed as good as the iPod (no surprise).  I checked out ABC’s app for viewing their TV line-up and the on-screen videos looked great.

I purchased the “Pages” word processing app and am writing this very article on my iPad.  While I’m not the world’s fastest typist and by no means a touch typist, I’m pleased to report that I had few problems.  Landscape mode makes the keyboard roomier and learning the software was quite simple. The only challenge was keeping lazy fingers from accidentally resting on the screen-based keyboard, something I expect repetitive muscle memory to solve.

One of the biggest advance criticisms of the iPad was its inability to multitask.  Case in point: the iBook/browser experience.  I was able to listen to music while reading a book and typing this, but there was no way to control the player.  You must exit the eBook app in order to control the iPod app.  It’s understandable that the device is more responsive with this sort of restriction, but in this day and age, it’s a surprising omission.

I can do it on my Android phone (hint, hint).

UPDATE: Just learned that you can control the iPod app while running other apps by hitting the Home button twice to bring up the iPod controls

Another major criticism of the iPad is its lack of Flash support.  As such, many websites have been rebuilt or specially-built to reduce or eliminate the dependence on Flash; eg: NPR set up a site for the iPad that works and looks great on the device.   If after this weekend’s first wave, iPad sales continue to climb, I expect we’ll see many other websites following suit.

My top three iPad takeaways after 36 hours are:

1) Its ability to access any eBook from any vendor who provides an app.

2) The added innovation and excitement to the publishing world that it has ushered in, including stunning new multi-media possibilities.

3) Mine won’t be showing up on eBay any time soon.

Am I dumping my desktop machine for it?  No (and not just because I need something to run iTunes on).

Will I travel sans laptop with just my Blackberry and iPad?  Maybe.

Will it save the publishing industry?  Doubtful. Though, I expect it will be a much needed booster shot for the healthy and nimble publishers. But for publishers that aren’t already preparing for electronic content distribution, a single device or platform is not going to be a magic bullet.

Is it the new eTextbook?  Maybe.  I’ve already heard it reported that some colleges are planning to issue students iPads with eBooks pre-loaded, in place of printed textbooks.

Does the iPad represent the death of the Kindle, Amazon, the Nook, Barnes & Noble or [insert device or retailer here]?  I don’t think so.  At this stage, the market is still taking shape; these devices and retailers still have sandboxes to play in, either as less-expensive alternatives to the iPad, or less-expensive sources of materials for their particular device.

Will the iPad be the “world changer” so many have predicted?  It’s the first step in a good direction.

Eric Freese is a Solutions Architect with Aptara, which provides digital publishing solutions that deliver significant gains in quality, time-to-market and production costs for eBook publishers.

37 thoughts on “My First 36 Hours with the iPad

  1. Eric Freese

    UPDATE: Just learned that you can control the iPod app while running other apps by hitting the Home button twice to bring up the iPod controls

    1. Katharine

      I took the iPad for a test drive at my local Best Buy, and wasn’t really impressed. It seemed like an overgrown iPhone and, as a woman with small hands, I could really feel the weight in my wrists. It wasn’t comfortable to hold, and the keyboard slowed me down (I’m a touch typist). I’m generally reluctant to invest in first generation products anyway.

      What I *would* like to see is a WebOS tablet device with hardware of Apple’s quality. True multitasking would be great!

      I’m also really looking forward to seeing what Microsoft’s Courier will bring to the e-publishing space. That one looks so promising that it might actually make me change my first generation policy. 🙂

      1. Eric Freese

        There are rumors of multitasking coming to iPhone OS, but nothing official yet. Maybe iPhone 4?

        I’m intrigued by the Courier as well, but haven’t decided if we’ll actually see such a device and if it will be timely enough to compete with Apple.

    2. marty monsees

      eric – do you know if ebooks in the adobe digital edition format are readable on the ipad?
      I did not see a specific app at the store. thanks, marty monsees

      1. Eric Freese

        Not in iBooks. However, B&N uses Adobe DRM and provides an iPad reader app as does Kobo. If you have Adobe DRM books on your computer already, I don’t know of a way to get them into those reader apps on your iPad however.

    3. Robert Barry

      I certainly HOPE the iPad is good for something other than eBook Reading. A good designated eBook Reader has about 40 times the battery charge life as an iPad, weighs about 1/6 as much, reads in bright sunlight, does not cause eye strain like backklit devices do, can fit in your suit jacket pocket, and costs less than 1/2. I see the iPad as some form of a Netbook; but a miserable excuse for an eBook Reader. Using an iPad as an eBook Reader is like driving a Winnebaco Motor Home to 7-11 about a block from your home to buy a carton of milk… you can do it, but it is ridiculous overkill in every sense of the word!

  2. Carmichael Craig

    I noticed how you said over and over about buying this App or that App…. Apples got you sucker!!! The Ipad is one more step to charging for content… 99 cents now, $5 to $10 in a few years… Remember when cellphones were $3,000, then they figured out they could almost give them away and make a fortune on calls..

    I don’t care if the Ipad was a world changing device, being tied to Apple and only Apple is a little to Orwellian for me…. Considering their 1984 commercial I find this a little ironic :-))

    PS. I bought my Apple shares at $18 :-))

    1. Eric Freese

      Actually, the only apps I bought were the Vook Grimm’s ($.99) and the Pages ($9.99) apps. All the other apps mentioned in the article are free to download. I, too, am not a fan of the closed ecosystem that Apple has adopted, but I do understand why they might have done so. I’m not happy that the main way to do almost anything is through iTunes and the various closed stores. However, the iPad and all the various reader apps are facts of life in my business and therefore something I need to know as much about as possible. Not to defend Apple, but Amazon/Kindle and B&N/Nook have similar models where they try to tie the consumer to a device/service through use of data formats and DRM. At least for the time being consumers have a choice which, if any, eBook service they use on the iPad.

      I’m also working with an Android-based device that I hope to write a review on. While the OS is technically more open, Google has some warts in how they’ve dealt with Android on non-phone devices as well.

      And do you still have your Apple shares? If so, you hit a good one.

      Thanks for the response!

      1. Carmichael Craig

        I like you was advised to sell my Apple shares at $40, so I did. I kicked myself for not listening to my gut, so I bought them back at $44 and still have them… But I’m thinking of selling them due to the Ipad and the chance that they will raise the capitol gains tax next year.

      2. Doug

        Eric said, “Amazon/Kindle and B&N/Nook have similar models where they try to tie the consumer to a device/service through use of data formats and DRM.”

        This isn’t true in the case of the B&N nook. The nook uses full Adobe Reader Mobile which supports EPUB, PDF, and the Adobe DRM system, and therefore it supports Adobe Digital Editions. It also handles the eReader (PML PDB) format and DRM (a combination usually called ‘Secure eReader’), and EPUBs with eReader DRM. That range of capability opens the nook up to just about every e-bookstore except Amazon and Apple, and also opens it to e-books borrowed from public libraries.

        The nook is almost wide-open, but the B&N e-bookstore isn’t. Their e-books are currently supplied mostly in eReader (PML PDB) format with eReader’s ‘social+password’ DRM. B&N is in the process of changing over to supply e-books in EPUB with eReader DRM. B&N worked with Adobe to have the eReader DRM included as part of Adobe Reader Mobile starting with version 9.1. So in theory, once B&N delivers all of their e-books in EPUB with eReader DRM, any e-reader device using Reader Mobile 9.1 or later will be able to handle B&N e-books. But right now, the only e-reader device that reliably works with B&N e-books is the nook.

        The tie-in for nook to the B&N e-bookstore is convenience. The B&N bookstore can be reached wirelessly, either through free AT&T 3G or WiFi, while e-books from anybody else have to be downloaded to your computer and then ‘sideloaded’ through the USB cable onto the nook. The nook also offers fewer features for browsing the list of sideloaded content than for the list of B&N content: no order by most recently read, no title search, and no graphical ‘cover flow’.

        1. Eric Freese

          “But right now, the only e-reader device that reliably works with B&N e-books is the nook.” – which I think was the point I was making. I am happy to learn about the coming change.

          I look forward to a day when I can purchase/download an ebook from B&N and read it on another Adobe Reader Mobile enabled device. If you have any input into when that happens, please make it sooner rather than later.

          1. Ric Day

            “I look forward to a day when I can purchase/download an ebook from B&N and read it on another Adobe Reader Mobile enabled device. If you have any input into when that happens, please make it sooner rather than later.”

            I can already do this with EPUBs I buy from Kobo, which allows me to read the books on any 5 devices on which Digital Editions is activated with the same Adobe ID. I discovered this about two months ago and have been buying from Kobo ever since. They have apps for iPhone, Blackberry, Palm Pre, and Android devices, so shopping from any of them is pretty simple.

            I agree with you about getting the (less expensive) WiFi version and tethering a phone if needed. I figure I already have the phone and am paying for 3G service on it; I have stable WiFi at home and at work; and so 3G will only be needed if I cannot locate a WiFi hotspot when I;m traveling.

            As to ebook prices, it seems logical to me (book publisher) that publishers will seek to recover their initial costs of creating ebooks, then as the market matures (it is still very, very small), for fiction we will probably see backlist titles dropping to something like 4.99 while frontlist may be around 7.99 to 12.99; non-fiction, with smaller unit sales, may be a bit higher.

      3. Faina


        Read your review about the 36 hours with iPad with great interest. As a corporate librarian I am interested in potential use for corporate users. For example, can you get delivery of the New York Times or Wall Street journal to your iPAd. If yes, can you view archival issues or just the latest day one?

        Thank you


        1. Eric Freese

          For the New York Times, there appears to only be the Editors Choice app for iPad. You can email the articles for future use, but I didn’t find anything about being able to archive them through the app. It is a little weird that in the iPhone app, you can save articles. My guess is that this feature will be coming soon either in an update to the iPhone app to support the iPad or in the iPad app itself..

          For the Wall Street Journal, the app is free and you can get a free limited subscription which gives you the current edition, updated throughout the day. You can save articles, but not full sections. You can also create watch lists for specific stocks. If you are a subscriber, you get extra content, a 7 day archive, the ability to save sections and articles for future reading, and a feature called “My Journal” that allows you save and share articles across. and the iPad.

          Thanks for the questions!

  3. Jeff

    I wonder if long term you are going to be happy with the WiFi version of the iPad or if the 3G will work better. One of the big reasons I got an iPhone was I loved my iPod Touch, but it was much more useful when it was connected to the net. With my iPhone, I am always connected.

    But I was glad to see you did some exploring of the new graphics capability that the iPad has that a Kindle can not support. From the start of the Apple tablet rumors, I wanted to see Apple build a magazine reader and not a book reader. It sounds like that is exactly what they built.

    1. Eric Freese

      I am able to wirelessly tether the iPad to my mobile phone. So at this point I don’t have the need to pay for another 3G plan.

      An app I neglected to mention is Zinio, which is a magazine reader. With it you see the pages exactly as they are in the printed magazine. The photos are just as vibrant as they are on the printed page. In portrait, you get a single page; in landscape you get 2. However, in some cases, you might need to zoom in to be able to read the text, forcing you to then manipulate the page around in the viewer area in order to read the entire page. The ads are the same as in the magazine, but may includde other media. For example, in the MacWorld magazine I looked at, I could click a button on the Kia ad to “test drive” a 2011 Sorento, by seeing one of their TV commercials. You can purchase single issues or annual subscriptions through their store. I did find an interesting case where I was previewing a magazine and had the option to look inside a magazine and was presented with a screen telling me I needed Flash 10 – major OOPS!!

      Thanks for the comment!!

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  5. mary

    Hi there…thanks for writing this post. Very helpful to me…a publishing gal, with a brand new ipad by my side.
    What App are you referring to here? the set of books you use to demo ereader units. i’m trying to figure out how i can test epub docs on my ipad!
    as well as a set of books my company uses to demo eReader units

    1. Eric Freese

      If you have the latest version in iTunes (which I assume you do), you can drag and drop any non-DRM epub file onto the iTunes app on your PC/Mac and it will then sync to iBooks on the iPad. To get some epub files you can go to Google Books (, Project Gutenberg ( or Feedbooks ( Many of the Google Books are simply OCR’ed text from scans, so there are often errors, depending on the quality of the source material. The Gutenberg and Feedbooks materials seem to have been cleaned up as I tend to encounter fewer errors.

  6. Robert Barry

    Dear Eric:

    As an eBook Seller I can tell you that instead of driving eBook prices down they are driving them up. We largely have the iPad to thank for the Agency Model that the five largest publishers are trying to pull. This model sets the price all etailers can sell eBooks at (PRICE FIXING) and makes it impossible to discount.

    Also, the way it was implemented was horrible. One day you have 4,000 eBooks to sell and the next day customers are clicking on eBooks on eBook Websites all over the world and 2,000 titles or so cannot be downloaded. This led to millions of customers infurated with the etailers and NOT with the publishers.

    What prompted the Agency Model is was , and is, the iPad. It has been a horror so far. Content Providers are without half of their inventory and the etailers do not even know yet what will download and what will not. We also do not know what the price IS for each title using the Agency Model.

    1. Eric Freese

      I am not a lawyer, not have I ever played one on TV – but I do know that Apple’s use of the agency model and the push by the Big 5 did/has caused quite an uproar in an industry who had become accustomed to operating in one way and suddenly needing to shift. However, any time there is a large change in any flow, be it rivers, or book distribution channels, there will be some churn before a new normal sets in. And unfortunately in the case, the online retailers who are not Apple and Amazon got caught in the middle. At some point online retailers are going to need to come up with some way to differentiate themselves and draw customers. If everyone is selling for exactly the same price, why do we need X online retailers? I think once the dust settles, we will start to see new ways of competing, possibly on price, possibly on something else.

      Essentially, online retailers are selling on commission, and sales organizations have developed methods to entice sales people to sell more for larger commissions. I’m going to wait and see what develops. While not exactly the same, I can go to Borders and pay one price and pay a different price at Target. Perhaps a siilar environment will be where we end up.

      1. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

        I think the downward pressure on eBook pricing is going to come from their competing directly with Apps that offer far more interactivity and engagement than static EPUB, at equal or lower prices. Compare the Winnie the Pooh eBook they’re using as a demo, that would presumably retail for $9.99, to Disney’s Toy Story 2 interactive app for $8.99. Vooks range from Free – $11.99; well-known, full-fledged games range from $9.99 – $14.99. Why would anyone pay that much for a static eBook?

        1. Eric Freese

          Interesting point…

          But with the publishers controlling the content and the forms in which it sold electronically, there is only so much pressure that could be applied. The cost of developing apps is much higher than producing an EPUB, one would assume. And not all books lend themselves to becoming an app. I’m not sure the market will differentiate between the two that much. We’ll see.

          An interesting case to follow might be Hachette with the Twilight books and now the Twilight graphic novels. Twilight the book sells for $9.99 on iBooks. I haven’t seen a price on the full graphic novel app yet. I would imagine in cases like these that the market for the latter feeds off the market for the former and that there wouldn’t be much cannibalization.

      2. Robert Barry

        Dear Eric:

        Thank you for a good insight. Our new eBook Store ( launched last Friday. I do agree that with pricing being consistent etailers of eBooks will need to differentate themselves. We have started with a better search system, categories and sub-categories, links to Adobe Digital Editions, every eBook is either PDF or EPUB, and any device utilizing ADE (like the Nook or like our own Astak Pocket PRO or like Sony) can purchase with confidence. We are going after independent authors and publishers and offering them conversion to EPUB. One button brings up all the NY Times Bestsellers, amd one brings up all devices that can download from our site. We offer 200,000 pay titles and the entire Google Free Library and we are deeply involved with Google Editions. Eventually we hope to offer eBooks in numerous languages and be truly global.

        Any other ideas? How can we better compete?

        1. Eric Freese

          Those all sound like good steps for differentiation. If I had some other ideas, I might be tempted to start an eBook shop myself!! 😉

          If you need assistance with ePUB conversion, please give Aptara a call.

          Thanks for the response!

  7. Owen Densmore

    One shortcut I’d like it the cmd-tab feature of mac-osx: showing the running apps and letting you go between them easily without going to the finder first. Treo had this a while back via a menu.

    The one odd mac app that did not make it was Preview. I find that odd, considering how much I use pdf in my iPad. Goodreader is OK, but I’m sure Apple would figure out some slick iPad-ized Preview that would be great.

    I’m loving it. I’m taking my time deciding on peripherals. I thought I’d get the keyboard/dock right away, but I’m not so sure now, typing is OK. I too agree that iPad + cell phone may be all I take while traveling. In that situation, the keyboard may be worth hassling with. Maybe a bluetooth folding keyboard?

    Great review,

    — Owen

    1. Eric Freese

      Since there really isn’t any multitasking, I’m not sure if the cmd-tab would be very useful, some day maybe…

      The one peripheral I did get was the VGA adapter. I was a little disappointed to find that it only works with a limited set of Apps including Videos, Photos (slideshow mode only), YouTube, Keynote, and Safari (video content on web pages only). I’m not sure what the limitation is, but it would be great for the Netflix and ABC apps to be able to output to an external monitor/TV.

      Thanks for the response!

  8. Jonathan

    Great review, and I’m glad you’re liking it. Can you comment on whether you had any eye strain when reading at length? Also, how portable is it? Can you carry it around with you outside the house? Thanks!

    1. Eric Freese

      I spend all day looking at computer screens, so if there is any eye strain on my part, I would have a hard time determining whether the iPad screen caused it. I would imagine, for casual computer users, eye strain might be a possibility based on studies that I’ve seen and heard about.

      As far as portability, it is very portable. It is a little slippery, so you might want to carry it with your fingers supporting it at the bottom, rather than just grasping it on the top edge. Again, reading it outside might be a problem. And depending on the strength/placement of your wireless signal, you may or may not have a internet connection.

      Thanks for the response!

  9. Richard

    “This might actually drive prices down since the iPad enables direct head-to-head competition between eBook retailers.”

    No doubt this is why the publishers insisted on the Agency model – to prevent price competition.

    In my case the iPad does cause eyestrain when reading ebooks. Lowering the brightness level did not seem to help much, but the night mode (white text on black background) that is included in the Kindle, Kobo and Wattpad (not iBooks) apps did help a lot. I also stare at a computer screen a lot but that is different than reading blocks of text unbroken by graphics, etc. as one does when reading a book. I’m sure that this will vary from person to person though.

  10. Oldtimepublisher

    Something omitted from blogs about iPad/iBookstore: Apple have seen fit to optimise iBookstore titles by using the epub 1.0.5 version. OK, that’s sensible… except they have neglected to make it backwards compatible with earlier versions of epub, e.g. v1.0.3.

    Now, IDPF released v1.0.5 on 22 March, not even three weeks ago. So this effectively means 99.9% of epub files owned by publishers out there need to be reconverted to the latest version. Good news for the likes of Aptara 😉 but not for publishers!

    How can Apple be so slack? Why would they neglect to make the iBookstore compatible with ALL versions of epub? Will this mean Apple (or other new entrants in future) will keep placing a resource-load onto publishers for reconversion every time IDPF releases a new version of epub?

    Ultimately, Apple may lose out. Because Google Editions is just around the corner folks, and you can bet your bottom dollar they ain’t gonna be placing any silly obstacles in publishers’ way. Google Editions will likely have, therefore, a wider selection as many publishers, I imagine, will produce new titles as 1.0.5 but may not spend precious cash reconverting their entire backlist just because Apple got sloppy.

    1. Eric Freese

      Your post is based on an incorrect premise rendering most of it moot.

      IDPF didn’t release a new version of the EPUB spec (which is currently v2.0). The developers (mostly at Adobe) of a validation tool called epubcheck released a new version of their software (1.0.5) that Apple has used to validate their EPUB files (and maybe included that validation in their iBook/iBookstore process). I don’t see any irresponsibility on Apple’s part for using the latest version of the software. Neither is IDPF to be held accountable for anything since they didn’t change the spec. To the best of my knowledge the software has no official standing within the IDPF.

      The main changes between 1.0.3 and 1.0.5, as I understand them, are improved validation of some items that weren’t be validated before. So technically, files validated using 1.0.3 might not always be valid EPUB files. Publishers who would like to display on the iPad should upgrade to 1.0.5 in order to pass the validation. In doing so they are producing better EPUB files that should still work on previous eReaders. Another change is to flags any files included in the EPUB file that are not listed in the manifest. If these files are not being used in the eBook, then having them in the file is wasted space and wasted bandwidth for those organizations which support the download and distribution of the files.

      If Google is going to use epubcheck to validate the Editions files, I would image that they would use the latest version of the software as well. Why would they want to release files that may not be completely correct? Will any reader they develop allow files that are valid to 1.0.3 to be read/distributed? That’s their call.

      So Apple was not slack/sloppy. If anything they might have hurt themselves by limiting the existing base of files that can be read by their reader and sold in their store. If you view validation as a silly obstacle, so be it. The publishers allowed sloppy files to be released and the updated tool is now identifying problems that crept through.

      1. Oldtimepublisher

        Eric, I stand corrected, and thank you for clarifying the detail. However, the outcome is the same: much cash and resource pumped into upgrading tens of thousands of files for most publishers.

        It is hardly the fault of publishers if a previous version of epubcheck failed to validate properly. We can only go by what the standards bodies release to us. And of course, the vast majority of publishers do not create their own epub files, outsourcing to businesses that do the conversions, big and small. But I don’t need to tell someone from Aptara that!

        So it’s perhaps a little disingenuous to claim that “publishers allowed sloppy files to be released”. Publishers have mostly bought in a specialist service and then relied upon the standards bodies for a validator which passes those files. Publishers have pinned their QA to standards (be they de facto in the case of epubcheck, or de jure in the case of epub itself). Are publishers to blame for every new iteration of epubcheck then which requires more upgrade work? Surely you can see that’s not sustainable? If publishers get their fingers burned every time a new validator rejects files which were validated in a previous iteration and therefore correctly (at the time) released into the digital supply chain, then having to go through the process of recalling and upgrading, duplicating their work and costs, what do you think that might do to the still-nascent ebook market?

        In the case of Apple, I agree now that it is not their fault. But it looks like there should be questions asked about how so many previously-ratified epub files are now potentially unfit for purpose. The industry looked towards epub as a solution to the highly complex product variety out there for customers. But now we see epub on Sony (wrapped in ACS4) as incompatible with Apple epub (wrapped in Apple DRM) and vice versa. We see old epub files that were validated with a de facto standard tool (epubcheck) now being reclassified as invalid. And where is the end user in all this? Still just as clueless as to compatibility, interoperability, and choice. It would be great to have you write a separate blog entry on epub and perhaps start a new debate here.

        1. Eric Freese

          I think this instance is one of the growing pains of a new industry. How it is handled will tell a lot about who the industry evolves and grows.

          Perhaps you know that EPUB is coming up for an update. Maybe someone should suggest that an official testing suite be developed as well so that any file that passes the test suite is “good”. That way publishers are not left to an unofficial party’s work to validate their files. In a previous job I worked with geospatial data and in that environment there are a set of standards that have reference implementations attached to them that are the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for each standard. If your tool/data passes the test, it’s guaranteed to be valid to the spec. Also any changes in the test require a new version of the spec.

          I would hope that in this case, publishers (and conversion houses) will learn that they need to be aware of the requirements of the spec, in order to do their own acceptance QA on finished EPUB file, whether they generated them or someone else did. Perhaps they should negotiate a maintenance/correction clause into their contracts to cover instances like this in the future.

          As far as where the consumers stand in all this: if someone buys a book from Sony, it will work on his Sony reader; the same with Apple. Because of the DRM wrappings the files aren’t transferable anyway. The version of epubcheck being used really doesn’t matter in this case.

          The real issue would be if Sony decided that they were going to do the 1.0.5 validation and then did it in such as way that all the old files they distributed are now invalid. It is the vendors who previously distributed data at the 1.0.3 level that need to figure out how to handle the later versions in a backwards compatible manner. Another instance might be when one vendor (e.g., Sony) moves and another (e.g., Kobo) doesn’t but they both use the same DRM scheme (Adobe). In that case we might see incompatibility issues.

  11. Pingback: Apple iPad X Amazon Kindle « Abrindo o Livro

  12. Rusty Keighron

    I was not smart enough to preorder mine soon enough, so had to stand in line on launch day. Macrumors had said that Best Buy would have them, so we were out there early. The manager told us at 7 am that he didn’t have his shipment, but the UPS truck pulled up at 9 am to our cheers. Here’s the way it looked on local TV:

    Two big surpises for me are the quality of the sound (WOW, esp. vs the iPhone) and the fact that GPS is enabled. Would have waited for the 3G model except for the MiFi app that turns iPhone into a WiFi hotspot. One disappointment is that Apple has crippled the Bluetooth so that my Bluetooth headset does not work. Am using the Line2 app that turns iPad into a full-featured phone but would like to be able to use a BT headset.


  13. Jorge

    As a book publisher with more that 70 titles in print and 17 as apps for iPhone / iPad and Kindle.

    I am particularly interested not only in selling books but in promoting reading, I think one of the great thing the iPad provide is precisely not to allow tow programs running at the same time. I disagree with you when you compare it with the Android.

    My greatest surprise is that this unique devise really make reading a different experience. It allow you to think as does the paper book. That is not the case with Kindle and or any other form of screen reading.

    It is a game changer, great for books, authors and publishers.



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