Right now people are conflating the whiz-bang demos from Wired, Penguin and the magazine world with the iBooks offering. In fact, no one can say anything right now other than that iBooks uses the EPUB format. Will books from iBooks be able to include custom fonts? Video? Audio? All unknowns.
If it’s true that books in the iBookstore can include video, for example, what kind of video? Adobe promotes Flash video for use in EPUB, but of course there’s no Flash in the whole iPad/iPhone ecosystem. So yes, EPUB is a standard, but the kind of content that would really showcase a tablet versus an E-Ink reader — like video — seems to have already fragmented before the device even hits the marketplace. That kind of fragmentation is going to deter publishers from doing much more than what they’re already doing: making text-only EPUB for wide distribution, and doing the occasional book-as-app experiment (at a premium price point).
We’re already seeing the tension between Apple’s own interests and their control of the App Store with the announcement that many apps (notably the Kindle) won’t be available in the App Store on release of the iPad because they haven’t been able to test on a real device. And then … how long until they release? That’s totally up to the Apple approval process.
In our development of an HTML5-based web app, we’ve found that hardware profiles are key to making web apps really compete. Ibis Reader isn’t nearly as compelling on an older iPod Touch as it is on an iPhone 3GS. By providing what is apparently a really sexy tablet that’s capable of running video and games fluidly, Apple also widens the playing field to let web apps shine too. As the hardware increases in capacity, web apps become increasingly attractive as an end product, not just as a way for web developers to play in the app space.