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What an AppleBook Could Mean For the State of eReading

For the record, I don’t put any stock into the rumors of Apple making an ereader. The reports state that Apple bought a bunch of touchscreens, not a bunch of E-Ink screens. Dedicated ereader devices simply cannot have LCD screens anymore. My guess is it’s a big iPod, like everybody first thought; even in that case, if they’re hyping a reading feature, backlit screens are a step back.

All that said, though, Apple entering the ereader market would be nothing but a good thing for readers.

On ITWorld, Peter Smith theorizes that one of the major reasons for Amazon’s popularity is its ease of use: you don’t have to fool around with formats or software, you just buy books right off the Kindle Store.

The tradeoff for this ease of use is a number of significant drawbacks: Kindlers have no alternative buying options, they’re strongly tethered to cripping digital restriction measures, they can’t borrow library ebooks, and they can’t download RSS feeds for free (and can’t download a lot of feeds at all). Plus, Kindle’s success is making Amazon a company that feels no desire to significantly improve its device. Understandably so, because nobody else can compete with their price,  selection, name recognition, or that aforementioned streamlined book-buying process.

If ease-of-use giant Apple makes an entrance, we’ll finally have a competitor for Amazon, especially in terms of content (if the quote from the Newsarama article is true, which is not a given). With two major companies vying for ebooks, publishers will feel more pressure to get on the ebook train. Other ebookstores will have to lower their prices (10% off hardcover price is not a discount, Sony). And hopefully, eventually, they’ll force each other to start removing DRM. Unfortunately, I don’t think competition will ever result in a universal format, the lack of which will provide a wealth of headaches for readers down the road. One of these formats is going to be the Betamax of ebooks, and right now there’s no telling which one it’ll be (although my money’s on LRF to go first).

Anyway, an AppleBook could also start opening doors toward a multipurpose netbook/ereader device. Once E-Ink is ready, and backlightable, I could see a 10″ tablet netbook with a detachable E-Ink screen that you read on.  I’m a little concerned about giving up the distraction-free interface of current ereaders, but since that’s at least a few years away, we can burn that bridge when we get there.

Then there’s the Machead zombie call to consider. Apple can count on name recognition alone to sell a few hundred thousand of these, and the Great eReader Adoption can always a use shot in the arm.

Whether it’s an E-Ink ereader or just a bigger iPod Touch, I’m not going to be terribly interested in the device itself, but Apple getting into the ereader game—or even just into the ebook game—would be good for all of us ebook enthusiasts.

Since it’s all based on a couple of flimsy rumors, though, I’m not holding my breath.

[AppleBook news from Newsarama via The iPhone Blog]

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