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The iPad as a "bedtime computer"

The creator of the "A Story Before Bed" iPad app discusses tablets and the reading experience.

Screen from A Story Before Bed iPad applicationJackson Fish Market, developer of the innovative A Story Before Bed service, is one of the few companies to fully combine video and web technology into a book-like product. Adults record themselves reading a bedtime story selected from the service’s library, and children can then play the story back through a computer anytime they like.

It’s not an exact replacement for books or in-person storytelling, that’s true. But A Story Before Bed is in the same ballpark as the intimate and personalized experiences print book lovers vociferously defend. And now that the service has gotten the thumbs-up from Apple for its iPad app (iTunes link), the technological divide between reading a digital story and actually experiencing that story could narrow.

Given all this, I got in touch with Jackson Fish Market co-founder Hillel Cooperman to get his thoughts on the iPad’s possibilities.

Mac Slocum: Why did you opt to develop an iPad app before an iPhone app?

Hillel Cooperman: We just didn’t have time to ship both at once. We also think and hope the iPad is the ultimate form factor for watching stories recorded on A Story Before Bed. We love our laptops, but the iPad is the first real bedtime computer.

MS: How will the iPad app differ from the service you offer through the website?

HC: Our website lets you record and view stories. There’s no front facing camera on iPhones, and no camera at all on iPads. Our iPad app lets you view the stories you recorded on your Mac or PC.

MS: Your app makes the most of the iPad’s landscape view (screenshots here). Are there other iPad features you find promising?

HC: Landscape view is great given the standard aspect ratio for children’s books works best that way. In general, the size of the iPad is what works best for us.

iPad CoverageMS: Does the iPad’s book-like form make it a better potential delivery device for your service?

HC: For reading, I suspect there’s no doubt the iPad form factor beats traditional laptops or desktops. The real questions are: what kind of market share the iPad will get, and will it support our business on its own?

MS: How will your app’s pricing work?

HC: The app is a free viewer for recordings you purchase on the site. The books are all currently at an introductory price of $6.99 (normally $9.99). But the prices will likely vary as we sign up more publishers.

MS: Some people believe the iPad is opening an entirely new form of computing. Others see it as an incremental device. What’s your take?

HC: It’s hard to judge until I actually try it. In the worst case I think it’s a big iPod Touch, which is not a terrible thing. In the best case, I think it could be the perfect storm of functionality, form factor, and price, and find a home in the spectrum of people’s computing devices and enable new scenarios.

Note: This interview was condensed and edited.

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