Maybe the runaway success of Apple’s itunes and App Store services gave us all impossibly high expectations. Maybe we all expected a little too much innovation from a company which often ‘merely’ dresses up and popularises existing concepts.
Either way, the company’s iBooks service – originally out for the iPad and now available for the iPhone and iPod Touch – is hardly a game changer.
I’ve played around with the app ever since getting my iPad, reading only free books until finding annoying gaps within Kobo’s offerings app were preventing me from reading the books I wanted.
It’s maybe not too elegant to have different books in different apps and I’m not a fan of closed DRM such as that used by iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle but my desire to read the books (eventually) overcame those objections.
One of the first things any user will notice is the familiar look and feel of the iBooks store which largely follows that of of the App and iTunes store. As in those offerings, there are collated products such as ‘Books under £5’ and ‘Bestselling Science Fiction Authors’ which suggest a little more effort on Apple’s part than some retailers bother with.
Within the ‘bookshelf’ side of the app everything looks lovely – the ‘page turn’ animation remains the best designed of all iPad ereading apps and the ability to sort books into collections and re-arrange their order is useful but these are really just cosmetic offerings and iBooks is already behind rival services in some key areas.
Unlike Kobo and Kindle, iBooks doesn’t support in-browser reading or offer an ‘app’ for laptop and desktop computers and it’s Kindle, not iBooks, which wins the accolade for first allowing readers to lend books to friends and family.
Cleverer readers are welcome to correct me but it also doesn’t seem possible to buy an evoucher for iBooks. While iTunes/iBooks gift cards are available, there seems no way to buy a voucher which gets emailed to the recipient for instant use in the same way as Kobo’s eGift Cards.
Given that the iPad and iPhone offer a number of competing ebook options, it’s essential iBooks at the very least matches the features of other apps, otherwise Apple risks becoming the hardware manufacturer which allows others to sell the content.
Both Kindle and Kobo complete purchases in the browser rather than within their apps meaning Apple makes no money from the books they sell – driving potential iBooks customers to rivals by offering by offering a lacklustre feature set isn’t an option Apple can afford in the long term if it wants to keep on earning throughout the device’s lifetime.
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