Sunday, January 31, 2010

Publishers Embrace iPad, And A Rebuttal

So, Apple has launched their iPad (the most recent blog entries I made about it are here and here, before the launch), and now we have this article, Publishers Embrace iPad, from Reuters. An excerpt:

Book publishers predicted on Wednesday that Apple's iPad would boost interest in online reading. But observers doubted the novel tablet computer would immediately revolutionize electronic publishing like the iPod changed music listening.

At the unveiling of the new device, Apple's CEO Steve Jobs demonstrated a new digital bookstore and application, iBooks, in an effort to reinvent the way books are read and entice readers to easily shop for and read books online.

Major publishers including Pearson's (PSON.L) Penguin, News Corp's (NWSA.O) HarperCollins, Lagardere's (LAGA.PA) Hachette Book Group and CBS Corp.'s (CBS.N) Simon & Schuster MacMillan, who will offer their books through the new reader, did not discuss the terms of the deal with Apple, but said they hoped it would bring e-readers more into the mainstream.

According to statistics released by the International Digital Publishing Forum, wholesale revenue from e-book sales in the United States almost tripled in the third quarter of 2009 to $46.5 million from $13.9 million in the same period in 2008.

The iPad, which starts at $499, is a half-inch thick tablet computer with a 9.7 inch (25 cm) touchscreen. It will compete with other e-readers like Amazon's (AMZN.O) Kindle, which currently sells for $259 and Barnes and Noble's Nook device.

"We love it, it's a state of the art device that Apple always does well and now they have added books to their repertoire," said Adam Rothberg, a spokesman for Simon & Schuster. "From a publishing perspective, this is a great thing."

And sent in by a PGS blog reader, this link, I Want To Be The Rain On Your Game-Changing Gadget. An excerpt:

So guess what’s not pictured above in the image of the brand new iPad and its crucial apps? IBooks, the “magical bullet” that’s going to “save” the publishing industry . . .

OK, so I’ll admit upfront that I was more than a bit skeptical about the iPad/Tablet/Slate before the lackluster (at least by liveblogging standards) Apple presentation this morning. I figured this would be one crazy-ass device that would allow you to do basically anything and everything you wanted anytime and everywhere you wanted. You could talk on the phone while surfing for new music. You could play video games while reading Moby-Dick. You could text while e-mailing. Crazy. Shit.

If you’ve been even somewhere near awake over the past few months, you’ve most likely been inundated with the hype and holler about how Apple’s “mystery” “magical” device is going to change the world. And most importantly to everyone I hang with: Fix the Publishing Industry.

See, e-books are a tricky thing. I’ve written in the past about the promise and problems of e-books. (In summary: you can reach virtually everyone solving some significant printing and distribution problems, but damn, is that new way going to be co-opted, and pricing models are essentially screwed due to our supply-demand dynamics and the lure of $9.99.) But that’s not really what I want to talk about here. What I’m more concerned with re: the iPad is the all-in hope that the big publishers have that Apple and its overgrown iPhone will change the world and allow them to continue publishing in the way they’ve always been publishing with a model that’s decades out of date.

There are two elements driving the hope the big presses (Hachette, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Penguin) have in Apple: better terms than Amazon.com and the coolness factor.

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