The long and the short of it: Unless Amazon has a dramatic new device waiting in the wings, I think the Kindle is basically done. I've talked with some Kindle owners who appreciate the fact that it's a device that doesn't come with all the bells and whistles of a full internet connection. And some people think that e-ink is the most important thing to ever hit electronic reading. But those people are a very small minority. I think the Kindle, and all those e-readers that debuted at CES earlier this month, are going to be fighting over the tiniest portion of the market. And tech devices that are aimed at tiny portions of markets don't tend to survive.
If the iPad does make it as a mass-market companion device—and I suspect that it will, even though I'm honestly a little disappointed at the lack of innovation in this device—the iBookstore* could dominate the ebook market, especially since Apple seems to have the major publishers in their corner. And since the publishers are making more money off individual iBook sales than they ever will make off physical book sales, I think they're going to be promoting iBooks and the iPad as eagerly as Apple will be promoting them.
But this is a pivotal point for magazine and newspaper publishers, and we didn't get much of a sense about that today at the Keynote. If someone doesn't figure out an easy, universal way to get media subscribers in the App market, what's left of the mainstream media will continue its speedy decay. People are willing to pay for apps in a way that they're not willing to pay for websites. Magazines and newspapers need to exploit that, and they need to provide essential, beautiful, well-written content to do that.
One medium that didn't get any mention at all at today's keynote was comic books as periodicals. Like Rich Johnston said earlier today at Bleeding Cool, if someone can come up with an app that can deliver new mainstream comics (DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse) to the iPad, they will make so much money. Guaranteed. (Actually, what Johnston says is "Right now there are comic shops in every major city in the English speaking world. That will change." It's sad, but I agree with him there, too.)
Everyone was asking before this event: Can Apple save publishing? The answer, basically, is Apple is giving print media a platform to save themselves. Let's hope print media doesn't fuck it up the way they royally fucked up the internet.
* Personally, I wish the iBookstore didn't have so much cheesy animation in its interface. Why do the books have to be sitting, faced out, on a faux-wooden shelf in the frame? Is it supposed to be old-timey or something? The iTunes store doesn't dispay the album art like record sleeves sitting in some junk bin in a record shop. And, anyway, if Apple wanted it to be a bookshelf, why aren't the books displayed spine-out? It seems weirdly ill-conceived for an Apple interface to me.