It’s impossible that you haven’t heard the news. Even the birds were singing about the announcement of the Apple iPad yesterday – while blog hubs like Technorati have strained under the weight of gossip.
Yet of all the excited parties, people in print
publishing have perhaps the most reason for a speculation-fest. Why? Because few other industries are screaming quite so loudly for the savior that the iPad has the potential to become.iPad to the Rescue?
Earlier eReaders such as the Amazon Kindle have only hurt existing book revenues. According to a January 12th post by Daniel Fitzgerald at ProPrint.com, Christmas 2009 marked the first year Amazon sold fewer paper books than electronic books.
What’s more, newspapers have been floundering for months to revive their basement-level print income – or make charging for content online viable. Rubert Murdoch recently poured scorn
on Google for enabling users to bypass pay walls, for example.
Hence if a group of people ever deserved to break out the karaoke and sing Bonnie Tyler (“I need a hero…”) it’s the hardworking people in print publishing.
What’s more, Apple is now called the savior of the music industry thanks to iTunes (perhaps prematurely given how widespread piracy remains.) So why couldn’t the iPad and its partner application iBookstore achieve the same results?
By partnering with Apple, both publishing houses and newspapers can release their content through iBookstore – and bring their industries back from the brink.
Already The New York Times has confirmed an iPad app to make articles readable on the Apple device. And according to an internal source at the newspaper, Steve Jobs “believes in old media companies and wants them to do well. He believes democracy is hinged on a free press and that depends on there being a professional press."
All of which makes the iPad a great prospect both for publishers.Doubts About the iPad
Yet if Apple is to be print’s savior it must overcome some obstacles first.
For example, according to General Manager of Griffin Press Ben Jolly, several publishers aren’t ready
to exploit the revenues the iPad may bring - not least because publishers have to submit apps themselves to make their websites viewable.
Second is the fact that reading on the iPad is an untested experience. If the device isn’t a commercial success, it won’t give publishers any benefit regardless of how they price their content.
Last is the certainty that a successful iPad will continue to erode the paper book market.
The iPad certainly has the potential to give a new lease of life to print newspapers. The Apple brand alone (compared with the Amazon Kindle) has the potential to spark an e-reading explosion. But right now too many questions remain to know whether Apple will raise publishing from the ashes, or (without meaning to) hasten its decline.