Friday, August 15, 2008

October: The iPod Touchbook

Note: This is half what I suspect and half what I know. Beyond that, I say nothing!

Bravo To Rex Hammock:

What I’d rather have than an eBook reader: the iPod Touchbook

iPod Touchbook mockup filched from Rex Hammock's blog

I've been calling it the iPod Air.

But I think he actually got the name Apple will be using.

September: New MacBooks.

Shortly after that, I expect press invites: "Apple Turns A New Page ..."

October: iPod Touchbook

* Five-inch "better than VGA" screen

* eBook reading software in ROM

* eBooks are compiled and compressed to thwart piracy (they might be ePub in a wrapper; but can't be opened by current tools)

* Yes, Cover Flow!

* iTunes update to enable desktop/notebook e-reading

* Library Shelf in MobileMe (avoids pesky iTunes Store redownloads)

* No iWorks built-in (probably separate buy in 2009)

* Exclusive eBook relationships with:
- Hyperion
- Miramax Books
- Disney Worldwide Publishing (note this author)
- - which includes Disney Books (Hannah Montana!)
- Gemstone Publishing (comic books, but not immediately)

To understand the incredible scope of Disney, read these details. Of note:
* The largest publisher of children's books and magazines in the world
* Sold 160 million children's books in 2005
* The largest publisher of children's comics (excluding magna)
* Published 441 children's magazine titles, and 222 million magazine copies in 2005
* Annual retail business just under $2 billion
* Product printed in more than 85 languages across 75 countries1
* Through books and magazines, DPW reaches an average of more than 100 million readers monthly

This explains why there hasn't been any leakage from the usually chatty New York City houses.

Why does Apple need them to launch into eBooks?

Apple doesn't need them.

Apple has Disney. Disney knows how to shut up.

Everyone else will want to pile on ASAP. The way the eBooks are created -- compiled and compressed -- will convince the New York City houses that It's On, baby.

Steve Jobs will have conquered eBooks.

Rex's mockup makes it look ginormous. Here's the ECTACO jetBook in my hand.

I expect it to be about that size, which is quite nice and can be put in a large inside jacket pocket easily. (Compare it to the Sony Reader at the link.)

What I don't yet know: What happens to individual authors who want to sell eBooks; writers not under current contract obligations to publishing houses? Will there be an "EDK" (eBook Developer Kit) for them?

What I also don't know: SIM slot? I don't know if this is why Apple and AT&T recently extended their agreement. I am a cellphone illiterate so I can't comment on the ramifications of a SIM slot that would accommodate non-AT&T SIM cards. Nor do I know anything about how this would be handled under existing iPhone subscription contracts.

Lastly, the October date is, like all official not-announced dates, slippery. There are three factors: Fixing the iPhone 3G call-dropping issue (that's if the iPod Touchbook has a SIM slot); getting MobileMe running smoothly; setting up a proper eBooks section at the iTunes Store.

And yes, expect an iPhone/iPod Touch OS update to include eBooks too.

Still thinking about a Kindle?

This will be the needed Big Bang for eBooks: millions and millions of portable reading devices out there (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPod Touchbook), an easy and already-established and used by millions and millions of people way to buy eBooks, the ability to read at the desktop (or notebook) as well as on-the-go (and on TV via Apple TV?), and a window for big sales before any attempts at piracy can succeed.

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