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May 8, 2010–Could this be a watershed moment for the iBooks and Kindle apps? Or only for the Pocket Pond?
Apple’s iBooks Store has just fallen from the top rung among free iPad Apps in Apple’s Top Charts listing. Beatweek Magazine called attention to the iBooks’ slippage, in which it has been supplanted an utterly lovely ambient app called Pocket Pond (see screen shot at the right, but it is just the beginning). As the screen shots at the end of this post attest, the brand new Pocket Pond is the new #1 free app for the iPad, iBooks has fallen to #2, and the Kindle Store has climbed from the mid-20s to #13 in recent days.
Naturally, after all we have heard about iBooks during the past three months, most of us iPad owners were eager to download it for free and try it out. The reading environment is very nice for indoor reading, but iBooks has a long way to go to compete in the ebook content marketplace when it comes to selection, prices, user-friendly search/sort/browse features, and access to a critical mass of reader ratings and reviews.
The flip side of these shortcomings and the obvious likelihood of comparison with the 2 1/2 year old granddaddy of all ebook readers may be among the reasons why the iBooks fall is juxtaposed with the Kindle app’s rise, but they are not the only reasons. As the three ads on a single web page in the screen shot at right suggest, however anecdotally, Amazon is investing plenty in making sure that iPad owners and enthusiasts are aware of the ease with which they can download the Kindle for iPad app free in a few seconds to gain access its 512,000 ebook offerings, at a mean price that’s about half the mean price of the iBooks store’s comparatively meager array catalog offerings.
Of course, snapshots are just snapshots, and it remains to be seen what the long-term trends will be. I’m finding the iPad a terrific place to read Kindle books, listen to free Audiobooks and paid Audible.com books, and read free Internet Archive texts in ePub with the Stanza for iPhone app (even after the departure of Stanza fountainhead Neelan Choksi from Stanza.Amazon.com yesterday). Stanza doesn’t show up in the iPad rankings because its app is designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch and has not been optimized for the iPad, but it remains prominent in the smaller devices’ app store ebook-related rankings and may still be the best way for an iPad owner to access over two million texts that are available from the Internet Archive, to say nothing of 12 million titles that may be available in the sweet bye and bye from Google Books.
Update: As of 7 am ET May 11, 2010, the iBooks App has moved back to the #1 Free Apps position in Apple’s TopCharts sales rankings, but the Kindle app continues to climb and has passed a Solitaire app and the Dictionary.com app to move into the #10 position.