My predictions about the iPad

by on January 28, 2010 at 7:23 am in Books, Education, Web/Tech | Permalink

Jason Kottke has some observations.  My theory is that Apple wants to capture a chunk of the revenue in this nation's enormous textbook market — high school, college, whatever.  Why lug all those books around?  The superior Apple graphics, colors, and fonts will support all of the textbook features which Kindle botches and destroys.  Apple takes a chunk of the market revenue, of course, plus they sell the iPads and some AT&T contracts.  There are lots of schoolkids in the world.

As Kottke says, it is a device you use sitting down.  And it fails to solve the "sunlight on your reading screen" problem/  Those both point to somewhat sedentary uses..  And it doesn't seem to have a camera.

In the longer run the iPad will compete with your university, or in some ways enhance your university.  It will offer homework services and instructional videos and courses, none of which can work well on the current iPhone or Kindle.  The device also seems to allow for collaborative use. 

Can you imagine one attached to every hospital bed or in the hands of every doctor and nurse?

It will take some business away from Kindle but that will not be the major impact.  The commercial book trade just isn't that big in terms of revenue and arguably that sector will shrink with digitalization, as recorded music has been doing. 

The story here is one of new markets, not cannibalization or even competition.

Most of the commentary I've read hasn't been very imaginative about what the content might be.

Addendum: Chris F. Masse, who sometimes reads my mind, sent me this article (before this post was up):

“The book will never die. But the textbook probably will,” says Inkling CEO Matt MacInnis. Inkling is working directly with textbook publishers. First, they’ll port their existing tomes onto Apple’s iPad as interactive, socialized objects. Then, they’ll create all-new learning modules – interactive, social, and mobile – that leave ink-on-paper textbooks in the dust.

Read the whole thing, it's the best piece I've seen on the iPad so far.

Russ January 28, 2010 at 8:00 am

The ipad looks like it would be the best substitute for glossy magazines.

Come to think of it, most undergraduate textbooks look a lot like glossy magazines.

Ryan Vann January 28, 2010 at 8:07 am

Seems to allow for collaborative use? It doesn’t even run flash or have a webcam. No I can’t imagine hospitals using them because they aren’t nearly as versatile as netbooks out there, and certainly will be outdated by the new droid pads that will hit the market soon. I’m not sure what Apple is trying to do with this gadget, but it is one expensive paperweight.

Jason January 28, 2010 at 8:18 am

Why is it that only apple revolutionizes? Why is the ipad so superior and more innovative then the other twenty tablets?

The media coverage here is outrageous.

david January 28, 2010 at 8:26 am

@Jason

Oh, superior similar devices were on the market before virtually every Apple bestseller (remember the immortal words: “No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.”)

But Apple has non-braindead user interfaces and a reality distortion field to cover up the invariable shortcomings of the first edition. The first iPods were awful, and the first generation iPhone positively archaic next to what was already on the market, but nobody cared.

aaron January 28, 2010 at 8:51 am

Based on the durability of the several iPods I’ve owned, I don’t think handing these things out to every highschool kid in the country would be much of a money-saver.

Mike January 28, 2010 at 8:59 am

I like the idea that tablets would drive innovation in the area of textbooks, but I still see it as just a higher price tag. My understanding is that the high price of textbooks comes from the large amount of work that goes into one vs the relatively small volume that most textbooks sell. I am not seeing how digitizing texts would reduce this cost. So if we are not reducing the cost of the books, then all that is being done here is adding $500-700 onto the bill as you have to pay for the tablet and then each of the texts.

Steve C. January 28, 2010 at 9:14 am

It’s not a computer, it is an information appliance with some basic convenience software.

It has limitations, but the critical strategic decision was the price point. This is the first apple device that does not have a substantial price premium compared to the competing products. That tells me that they realize that for all its glitz, glamor and appley goodness, a $900 price point would have been a killer. (note: the Newton was priced with an apple premium)

With open architecture, apple reinforces its ties to existing app developers, not to mention the investment that existing ipod/iphone customers have in applications. Nobody knows, not even apple, what potential uses and markets could develop. Considering the quality and convenience, even if this device only sells a few million units per year, it will set a new standard with benefits redounding to all consumers.

Ryan January 28, 2010 at 9:19 am

Is the iPad going to serve as a compliment or substitute for the iPhone? I can see it going either way. If you can use the iPad for many things you normally do on your iPhone, why have both when AT&T is giving you terrible phone service and there doesn’t appear at this time to be bundling with the two data plans? So, get your iPad with AT&T data service then get a phone with someone else. Or, is there going to be significant interaction between your iPhone and iPad that you would benefit in having both?

What do you think?

Andrew January 28, 2010 at 9:36 am

I still have yet to see technology beyond Powerpoint (where you still print out the slides anyway) used with any effect in a classroom. I’ve seen a lot demonstrated once, never to be heard from again.

That said, textbooks are lame and so are universities. They are the toll bridges one must use to gain access to knowledge and elite professors.

anon publisher January 28, 2010 at 10:04 am

We have the same reaction to the iPad as we did to the Kindle: why will college students want to buy, and carry, another device, instead of a netbook or notebook?

And we love to see how many people seem to be ignoring the economics of developing and selling a good textbook for interactive use. If you believe making textbooks “digital” is going to result in less expensive textbooks, we have a bridge for you with YOUR name on it.

4-year college students spend approximately $1000 – $1200 per year on textbooks now, and that will not change much when textbooks are no longer ink on paper.

Also, it’s interesting to hear people go gaga over the potential savings from digital textbooks, when most kids (or their parents) today are spending $1000 annually for their cell/iPhone plans. And that expense doesn’t end when they graduate from college….

With ubiquitous wifi on most college campuses, look for textbook publishers to increasingly put their textbooks in some kind of web-accessible format (and with Flash!), not a proprietary format for Kindle, iPad, et al. And then Apple’s 30% or Amazon’s 50% becomes irrelevant. AND the publisher doesn’t have an intermediary between them and the end user/buyer. Hmmm, marketing, upsell, etc….

Along the web-based line, I’d keep an eye on Google, and a possible Android tablet that will work with Google’s web collaboration tools, like Google docs. (And Google docs is free, unlike Apple’s me at $100 annually.)

DanC January 28, 2010 at 10:29 am

I was disappointed in the iPad. Most college students would be better off with a netbook. Everything you say about the textbook market could be done by a netbook. The key is the software not the device.

The iPad could be neat in a lab or kitchen. Video instructions to lead you through a process. However a camera for video conferencing would have been nice. Without it, I don’t need it

So iPad Vs Macbook, I would just buy the Macbook. Then buy an iPhone when they no longer are part of AT&T, which really sucks in my area.

I am a big Apple fan, but I will wait for an improved iPad

zbicyclist January 28, 2010 at 10:33 am

Ipod Touch with bigger screen. Why not?

Freddie January 28, 2010 at 10:38 am

But why the iPad, specifically, and not TABLETs, generally? There are already competitors that can do as much or more than the iPad, and some are cheaper. Why the iPad?

The only reason is Apple piety.

Justin Martyr January 28, 2010 at 10:44 am

I disagree. I think that we are seeing an evolution. Technology is no longer a major constraint in the design of computers. So we are starting to see them built around physical constraints, namely, the size of the interface. I think there are really three points.

1. Portable interface. This leads to smartphones. Great devices but you wouldn’t want to read a book on them.
2. Book-size interface. Great for reading books, surfing the web, and many games. Too big to be truly portable.
3. Monitor interface. Great for serious computer work such as graphic design and hardcore computer games.

Which interface styles will become dominant? I don’t know. But my wife might be happiest with an iPad since most of her computer use is to surf facebook and a few blogs.

Al Brown January 28, 2010 at 11:06 am

As near as I can tell, the text book is largely unnecessary. its not exactly great writing and its generally on par with whats on wikipedia. can’t some wikipedia urls be used as reading material for courses? I think you’ll see some open source textbook initiatives if you google “open source textbooks”.

yeah, textbooks are toast for so many reasons, not the least of which is the heavy burden experienced by sometimes tiny little bodies with permanent negative effects on posture.

Ed January 28, 2010 at 11:34 am

This is a good insight. I think these electronic portable readers won’t replace the book, but will replace a particular type of book, namely the really big, usually hardcover book.

The advantage of the kindle and ipad is that they are portable and cut down on the storage. I’m waiting for them to get the initial bugs out, but will get one because my library has just gotten too big. But books still have an edge in durability and readability, plus they don’t have to be recharged. They are easier to browse, and there is concern that more obscure titles won’t be available electronically.

What this adds up to is that small sized books still have a net advantage, the only real advantage of the electronic readers is storage. But against large books, electronic readers have a huge advantage in portability plus storage. I think this will be enough for electronic readers to encourage large sized books to disappear.

Someone gave me a large hardcover book once because he thought I’d like to read it, and I’ve run into problems trying to physically read the thing. Its too big to bring on the subways or to lunch, where I get most of my reading done, and hard enough to prop up that I have to set aside time to read it and place it open on a table. Plus its longer than I am really interested in the subject. But the topic is interesting enough to work on an electronic reader. The paperback that I am actually reading instead, I probably wouldn’t have discovered through browsing the web, I saw it in a bookstore and it looked interesting.

But big coffee table books will still be around because I don’t think people read those anyway.

Paul Johnson January 28, 2010 at 11:51 am

My experience is that students don’t want to read texts off a screen. Online assignments are fine. Netbooks let them do the assignments, compose essays, create spreadsheets…

hibikir January 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm

The fact that the system is so proprietary and locked down makes it pretty unattractive to me. If you want to develop anything for it, Apple gets to approve it on their schedule, and even veto it without stating a reason. Don’t like their browser? Nobody will ever be able to offer a better one for the device.

And that is why I want it to tank: The price of a computer, the software freedom of a cellphone.

Eric H January 28, 2010 at 12:34 pm

iRentseeking

Careless January 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm

http://i.imgur.com/5vREa.png for a comparison if IPad features

Justin Martyr January 28, 2010 at 1:34 pm

@thehova,

There are higher search, transaction, and training costs with Windows or open source products. Apple is acting as an informational middleman. It is leveraging its comparative advantages in usability and interface design and charging the appropriate premium.

There are also the standard anti-open source arguments, such as the fact that Apple products simply work better than open source competitors. I suspect the slashdot crowd would strenuously disagree.

Slocum January 28, 2010 at 1:58 pm

I guess the bottom line is that there’s a lot of people out there who prefer simpler products that give them less choice. And they are willing to pay 25% to 50% more for such products.

I think that’s to be seen in this case. The iPhone compares quite well with other smart phones in most technical areas, falling down only in a few (e.g. multitasking). But the iPad is pretty dramatically ‘crippled’ in comparison to netbooks and tablet computers that run full computer operating systems.

Thomas M. Hermann January 28, 2010 at 2:48 pm

The iPad will not reach it’s full potential, especially with students, until it is capable of multi-tasking, has a web-cam and microphone. Use cases:

(1) Listen to Pandora while reading your textbook.
(2) Skype with your classmates while reading your textbook.
(3) Skype with your instructor while reading your textbook.
(4) Look up references on the library website while reading your textbook.
(5) Have the references in the textbook hyperlinked to your library.
(6) Look at more than one reference at a time.
(7) Have a spreadsheet open while looking at your textbook/reference.
(8) Have your report open in your editor while looking at your textbook/references.

The list goes on and on. It can’t do any multi-tasking now and I think that is a major oversight by Apple. Until they fix that, the iPad will only excel at frustrating its owner.

~ Tom

Ak Mike January 28, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Ed – glad to disagree with you about electronic book readers, although from what I see the current iPad won’t be the device that replaces physical books. Additional advantages that electronic readers have include (1)you can get books nearly instantly on-line – no more having to wait for that order from Amazon or go down to the library or bookstore; (2) broader and deeper selection – there are already hundreds of thousands of books from academic libraries that have been scanned in, and can be obtained for free online – to look at the hard copy, you’d have to travel across the country; (3) Readers allow search capabilities within the text, also they have built in dictionaries that allow instantly looking up specific words as you read.

Let me also quibble with your position that books are more durable. I have a lot of very beat up paperbacks that should probably be thrown away. I agree that each electronic reader device will only last a few years, but the “books” – the electronic files – will last as long as you like.

Anecdotally, I’ve had my Sony reader for about two years now, have downloaded hundreds of books, papers, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and other documents, (all legally) and have never paid a cent for content.

The iPad will never be a textbook replacement at the high school level – it wouldn’t last two weeks in a backpack. At the college level it might survive a semester or more.

Xofis January 28, 2010 at 6:02 pm

>The superior Apple graphics, colors, and fonts <

Don’t you mean superior LED colors? Or is sainted Apple the only company which puts out LED-based computers.

Gus January 28, 2010 at 6:14 pm

I’ve always like Apple products, but I can’t see myself using an iPad. However, when the iPod first came out, I didn’t think I’d ever own one. I now have 4.

Chris Auld January 28, 2010 at 6:49 pm

The hype over this thing makes no sense to me: it’s a big iPod. It doesn’t multitask, it doesn’t have a good keyboard solution, it doesn’t run a proper OS, it’s relatively expensive, and it will only run applications sold and controlled by Apple. It is inferior in many important ways to most of the dozens of tablet PCs already on the market, which haven’t destroyed the e-book, textbook, or magazine markets. Tablet and just plain ol’ PCs of every type already have the same potential as the Mega-iPod to “offer homework services and instructional videos and courses,” even collaboratively. It may not be a flop, but it’s hard to see why it would be successful enough to change the computing landscape.

Kevin Carson January 28, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Chris: The problem is that if the textbook industry continues to be run by crooks, ebooks will cost almost as much as the hard copy versions.

What I’d like to see, in the universities, is student-run efforts to scan proprietary textbooks and distribute the pirated pdf’s by darknet. The people running the textbook racket, often charging over $100 per copy, are criminals; I’d like to see somebody do to them what filesharing did to the music industry.

kranky kritter January 28, 2010 at 9:15 pm

As a one-time textbook editor, I think it’s odd to believe that textbooks will die, while books won’t.

If any form is most amenable to a linear format of looking at one or two pages at a time, in succession, surely its the novel.

Textbooks and reference books are in many instances much easier to use than anything you’re trying to view within the confines of one screen, like say on a laptop. Sadly, the vast majority of textbooks that have migrated to digital display do so without adding any value whatsoever. The content is virtually the same, and the potentialities inherent n computers are seldom really leveraged.

I’m no luddite, mind you, just an insider who has seen a real decrease in content quality and ease of use with the advent of digital display.

But I expect folks will sort of just go along, convinced by the compactness and cost savings. Eventually, someone will leverage the potentialities of computers to make better teaching stuff than what a textbook can do. But right now, the vast majority of digitally-delivered textbooks are the no more than the exact same content from a book, poured into an easier to store but harder to use format.

NateS January 28, 2010 at 9:53 pm

http://www.hackcollege.com/blog/2010/1/14/ces-ereader-roundup.html#comment7056390

Many more ereaders on the market. The iPad won’t touch anything without any kind of EInk. These pads last weeks at a time on one charge and are much easier on the eyes.

Mitch January 29, 2010 at 9:53 am

Let’s not fool ourselves about any savings from getting your textbooks on the iPad. The purchase price of the iPad is only the beginning. You think the books will be free? Wanna bet that prices on digital textbooks are no less than the paper versions? And gone is the concept of buying used textbooks, a big savings opportunity for a lot of students.

anon January 30, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Love this line by Jim Stogdill (and pretty much agree with him):

“The iPad is Steve’s Minitel terminal.”

http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/01/the-ipad-is-the-iprius-your-co.html

6ave coupon code February 26, 2010 at 6:46 am

Well Apple’s truly revolutionary device, the iPad is perfect for your mobile computing lifestyle, including browsing the Web, reading and sending e-mail, enjoying photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, and much more.I love it and i m thinking to buy it next month.Ne ways good post!

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