The day after. This is a book design blog, so you’d expect me to write about iBooks, the dazzling ePub reader built into the iPad. But I’m not. (Well, I will a bit). And I’m not going to write about what features are lacking in iPad (first generation, after all) or if there’s even a market for this type of device: duh. And I’m not going to waste time debating the backlight. There are a lot more important things to do, such as figuring out how to design content for this new device. Notice: I said designing content, not designing e-books.

iBooks is a response to the market-driven phenomenon of people wanting to read hundreds of pages of text on a computer screen. Is that the best we can do, read text on a screen? Personally, I want to use an ultra-modern computing device for engaging with content in ways not possible merely with text. (Of course, I’m talking primarily about non-fiction here. I love literary fiction & the interplay of words, sentence after sentence, though I still prefer my novels in print. But that’s just a personal preference.)

And I’m not talking about enhanced e-books, which often mean no more than just some multimedia tacked onto the end. Adherents of e-books are constantly stressing the importance of breaking away from the concept of the printed page. Yet, the ePub reader on iPad uses a page concept & strongly reinforces the concept of the physical book (transplanted to the screen).

I’m interested in breaking away from the concept of the page & the physical book. But I’m not too interested in a lengthy stream of re-flowing text. The page, the physical book, & even the re-flowing text are all great in their own ways if you want is to read 80,000 words on a topic. But I seldom have that much time. But I am interested in learning. And don’t we read non-fiction because we want to learn?

Maybe I only need a stimulating 10,000 words arranged in even smaller, bite-sized chunks seasoned with imagery for obtaining an overview of a topic. A multi-touch screen allows me to interact with the content, furthering my retention of ideas. A playful, game-like component pulls me further into the narrative. (Remember, narratives don’t have to be linear or even textual.) I would buy such a product, a content app that started me along the journey of exploring an unfamiliar topic. I love to learn, I love to read. So what’s next: I would then purchase a more in-depth book on the topic (either in print or as an e-book).

Listen up publishers: you just sold me two separate products. Think about that.

How can digital media aid in learning about a topic in a visually engaging manner? That’s the challenge we should address in designing for the iPad. The iPad gets us a big step closer.

As I think about designing content for the iPad, I’m not thinking so much about ePub. I want to breakout of whatever constraints & restrictions imposed by the ePub rendering engine. The iPad provides a robust canvas. When I think of paid content on the iPad, I’m not just thinking e-books. I’m also thinking apps.

The app development environment for iPhone is superb and is the basis for the iPad SDK. There’s an NDA around the iPad SDK beta. So, no specifics here.

Here at sorodesign we are working to develop some apps for the iPhone & the iPad that revolve around content but are not at all what one would think of as e-books or even enhanced e-books. We’re experimenting. Designing for the iPhone & the iPad requires creativity. That’s exciting.

And what is required from all of us for devices like the iPhone, the iPad, & similar products from other vendors that will come along: new ways of writing, editing, designing, publishing, & reading.