The Apple iPad has yet to launch, but that hasn't stopped developers and media companies from working on applications for the tablet, which will go on sale April 3.
To ease the development of applications for a not-yet-existent device, Apple has given iPads, along with explicit directions for discretion, to a handful of companies, including the Wall Street Journal but not Amazon - the country's largest e-book seller - or Barnes & Noble, according to a March 21 report from The New York Times.
Despite the booksellers offering e-readers of their own - the Kindle and Nook, respectively - each is, the Times reported, working on an iPad app, not wanting to miss out on the action that seems increasingly likely to follow the iPad's growing buzz.
"We have actually developed a tablet-based interface that redesigns the core screen and the reading experience," Ian Freed, Amazon's vice president for Kindle, told the Times.
The Kindle app for the iPad reportedly allows users to flip pages with a finger swipe and offers two new views of the user's e-book library.
On March 17, the Times separately reported that, again in preparation for the iPad, Amazon was cracking down on some of the booksellers whose e-books it offers, trying to make them agree to new stipulations that will strengthen Amazon's hold on the market before the iPad arrives to threaten it.
Part of its new terms reportedly include requiring the publishers to guarantee, for three years, that no Amazon competitor will receive better rates or terms.
Apple, for its part, has reached deals with five of the six biggest publishing houses in the United States - the sixth, Random House, remains a hold-out - and both Apple and Amazon are now scrambling to arrange deals with smaller publishers.
Apple recently posted a job description for an independent publisher/account manager for its iBookstore. The position, it wrote, would entail "building and growing relationships with small and medium-size book publishers ... [and] increasing the number of titles in the iBookstore."
While the e-reader market is already thick with competitors, including Spring Technologies' Alex E-Reader, the Plastic Logic eReader and a planned model from Acer, the iPad has additionally reinvigorated the tablet space.
The Dell Mini 5, a tablet running Google's Android OS, is expected to launch in the next few months, and Hewlett-Packard is developing a tablet called the Slate that's expected to go on sale in Europe this June, packing an Intel Atom CPU, a Webcam and support for Adobe Flash - the latter being a feature the iPad lacks.
"Apple's iPad is not the first media tablet, but it does help define this new device category," Jeff Orr, an analyst with ABI Research, said in a Feb. 2 report, in which the firm predicted that 4 million "media tablets" will ship in 2010, before that figure rises to 57 million units annually by 2015.