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Apple iBooks e-reader: First Take

Apple's iBooks: A stylish, crisp-looking, colorful e-book reader and storefront?

Article updated 1/28/2010 at 4:25 PM PT with clarification from Apple about the availability of the iBooks app.

Apple iBooks on iPad

We only got a glimpse of Apple's new iBooks app when CEO Steve Jobs demoed it at the January 27, 2010 Apple event in San Francisco. What we saw was a stylish, crisp-looking, colorful e-book reader and storefront that will run on Apple's forthcoming iPad, and that looks strikingly similar to Classics, an e-reader app for iPhone and iPod Touch. Since the iPad will share the content (and layout) of the App Store, there's a chance that iBooks should presumably be available for the iPhone and iPod Touch as well.

We thought we heard Steve Jobs hint in Wednesday's keynote that iBooks would be available later in the day, but Apple has confirmed that is is only announcing iBooks availability when the iPad comes out, about 60 days from now. In the meantime, here's what we think so far.

As with other e-book readers (like Stanza,) iBooks will respond to the device's accelerometer and switch between landscape and portrait modes. Its controls will disappear when unused, and a swipe (or tap on the left or right side of the screen) will cause the pages to turn. iBooks' page turning looks smoother and more engaging than Stanza's, with page corners digitally curling toward you as you advance, but this is hardly different behavior than what you'd find in other digital readers. IBooks will also include a progress bar to show how far you are along in a book, and you'll be able to change the reader's font size.

Stylistically, we already prefer iBooks to the bland Kindle app for iPhone, which shoots you to a Web page on Safari to browse for books.

We're unsure yet about other specific features, such as bookmarking and annotating, and perhaps Web lookups for further context (but we're speculating or just plain hoping here). However, we do know that iBooks will use the ePub standard. With books and textbooks from all five major book publishers slated to stock iBooks' digital shelves (Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, MacMillan, and Hachette), it looks like the content should stack up against competing apps and electronic bookstores.

Related story: Is Apple's iBooks e-reader app a rip-off?