iPad or Android tablet to design illustrated books?
December 9, 2011 8:23 AM   Subscribe

I want to make e-books: should I get a Android Tablet or an iPad?

I run a micropress, and we've been designing paper books for a while. Now we want to make a jump to e-books. Our books are very heavy on illustration/images and light on text, so we thought (also after seeing that Chris Ware opted for an iPad story) that we would skip the e-reader format all together at least for now and go directly to a tablet (interactivity and screen size being the main issues here).

I don't know much about tablets, but I can say that I find Apple's strict policies a pain and unfair. I know that I'd have to pay to develop an app and keep on paying, but I don't know if the iPad is the only tablet that's worth create something for right now. I'd rather try a format that's open, but I'd like to have readers too. Besides, I don't know which Android tablet would be a good one - suggestions?

Any ideas? Also, if not adopting e-readers sounds like a bad idea, let me know why!

Thanks, mefites!
posted by TheGoodBlood to Technology (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The iPad is the only tablet worth creating something for right now. Unless you are bleeding-edge political about your anti-Apple stance, it's tilting at windmills to go anywhere else.

For all the griping about Apple charging their $99ses, iPad/iPhone developers are making bucketloads of money, and it's not like Android development is actually any more profitable by any measure.

Per last month's Piper Jaffray report summary: The Apple iApp Store has grossed $4.9 billion to date, $3.5 billion of which was paid back to developers. (that's 71%). Android Market has grossed $341 million and paid $239 million back to developers. (70%).

You will probably end up doing both eventually, but the iPad is where the money is, to the tune of fifteen times the volume. Small developers who work for both usually show the same sort of breakdown.

But you can and should certainly develop an iPad app that is 95% portable to Android, OSX, or anything else. The data is the data, and your product is 95% data, right?
posted by rokusan at 8:32 AM on December 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If you can afford to get both, that would probably be ideal, just so you can develop and test the books on both Android and iOS.

In terms of a good Android tablet, I'd suggest the XOOM or the Galaxy Tab. You might also want to get an cheaper, crappy little Android tablet, too, since there are a lot of them on the market and you'll want to see how the book performs on a low-end device.

All of that said, rokusan is right. Start with iOS and jump to Android later; that's likely to be the most profitable way to go. Buy an iPad and then, when you decide to move into Android, use some of your earnings to buy an Android tablet.
posted by asnider at 8:39 AM on December 9, 2011

If you're hell-bent on only targeting tablets, then the iPad. But I think you're shutting out a lot of the market for ebooks by not figuring out a way to make your content work on the Kindle / Nook and other eink devices.

Speaking as someone who buys a hell of a lot of ebooks, I don't own an iPad and don't see any reason to own one. At some point I expect to probably get a color tablet, but it'll probably be a Kindle Fire or some other type of inexpensive device.

Right now the tablet market is very immature. Apple has a big first-mover advantage, but they're risking it because the iPad is still a very expensive gentleman's (/-woman's) toy. The first person who brings out a $99 tablet that doesn't suck is going to sweep the market; unless you are very, very sure you can recoup your development costs for the iPad given the current market, I wouldn't invest heavily in it, and instead I'd probably target other platforms with greater existing penetration.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:08 AM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm an Android user, but would recommend going with Apple in your case. iPad penetration is far greater than Android in the tablet space, and until recently most Android tablet buyers were budget-conscious people who aren't going to be buying many apps.

That said, expect Android usage to surpass Apple in the next 18 months, just as they did with phones. If you're creating apps, you're going to have to create for both platforms.

But if this is just an experimental, testing-the-waters kind of thing, by all means use Android. You won't get the large customer base, but the base you'll get will be mainly readers at this point (the Kindle Fire is expected to do surprisingly well this holiday, based on sales thus far) and fast growth is expected.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:18 AM on December 9, 2011

Check out the Iconia and the Transformer in addition to the Xoom and Galaxy Tab for Android Tablets. Last I heard the Transformer was the best selling Android Tablet.

(But that statement may be out of date. I stopped paying as much attention after getting one.)

Nthing if you have to pick one platform, go Ipad. But I also think producing for both if possible, would be best.
posted by PlutoniumX at 9:56 AM on December 9, 2011

Best answer: Look into "fixed format" or "fixed layout" epub. Only available on iBooks now, but variations are coming for Nook Color and Kindle Fire. Lets you do a lot of what you might want an app for (basically, control the layout, use the full screen), but can be sold through the book retail side, not just the app store. Won't work for every illustrated book, but a lot less time and money to develop than a full app.

Some description (from a conversion vendor) here. Elizabeth Castro has a good resource on how to do it.
posted by libraryhead at 10:19 AM on December 9, 2011

You can also do something like phonegap, where your develop your ebook in html5/javascript/css (which should be all the features you need to generate an interactive ebook), and then release the book as an app for all mobile platforms at the same time, as well as as a webpage that anybody can access with a browser. You develop only once, but don't have to choose between iOS and Android.
posted by yeolcoatl at 11:03 AM on December 9, 2011

I write eBooks to read on my iPad. I do all the writing on the iPad, but must transfer the text (and cover -- also created on the iPad) to my Macbook and use iWork Pages to do the final formatting, table of contents, and conversion to ePub format. What I'd love to be able to do is publish a book as an "App". Then whenever I improved it (or added a major chunk to it -- like the genesis of "IQ84") I could post a "free update".
posted by RichardS at 11:08 AM on December 9, 2011

Go with iPad for now, but at the same time begin investigating Android. Like with phones, I assure you Android tablets will begin to take over Apple marketshare.

Also, I feel strongly that the ASUS Transformer is the Android tablet to beat right now. (Excluding, of course, its successor, the Transformer Prime.)
posted by InsanePenguin at 11:45 AM on December 9, 2011

I know that I'd have to pay to develop an app and keep on paying...

Now I may be reading this wrong, but I don't think that this is necessarily true. My understanding is that you could use the ePub file format and distribute it to any number of hardware platforms. If you run a micropress you probably have access to InDesign with which you can design and export the .epub file format, which is essentially a glorified XHTML doc and associated files. Adobe even offers a free ePub reader for proofing purposes.

That said, you're probably going to want a tablet of some kind for final proofing, and you'd most likely want to make that tablet an iPad for now, but keep an eye to the market.
posted by lekvar at 12:12 PM on December 9, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the answer each of of them offered a interesting and useful perspective. We'll start with the iPad and see how it goes!
posted by TheGoodBlood at 1:00 PM on December 14, 2011

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