4 min read

The iPad and publishing

The iPad hit homes in the beginning of April and users have been going berserk playing with their sleek and shiny new toy. One single beautiful looking machine, gives them a host of entertainment options, starting from online web surfing, gaming, and most importantly reading and information consumption.

With the launch of the iPad, reader expectations seem to have skyrocketed. Readers now expect so much more from a book than just plain text. The iPad changes the way in which content is created and consumed owing to its video streaming, audio and interactive media capabilities.

The publishing industry for one is abuzz with predictions, hopes and, ambiguity. Many wonder, if the iPad will indeed define the future of books. Will print books eventually die out? Will publishing houses perish or evolve, the questions are endless and the predications aboundless.

Opinions are varied. Quoting Mr. Ulrich Hegge, Managing Director Burda Media Innovation Lab,

“We have to take readers’ view and expectations in regard to start telling stories in a way that suits the new possibilities. We have that potential and we already proved that in the printed publications department. We believe a new era has begun.”

Jim McGregor, who is Chief Technology Strategist at In-Stat believes the significance of the iPad for publishers will be much smaller than some seem to hope for:

“Although the iPad and other tablets are being positioned as next generation e-readers, their value really extends to more multimedia rich content. This may be a boost for audio and video, but it is unlikely to change the fate of the publishing industry which has to adapt to a digital world driven by the Internet. Devices like the iPad will probably accelerate the move to digital content, especially in areas that are traditionally tied to printed material, such as education.”

While both industry leaders question the extent of impact that the iPad will have on publishing they are the first to admit that the iPad cannot be ignored. They both endorse that publishers have recognized the need to adapt to the digitally skewed changes engulfing the industry. Many publishers are migrating towards the ePub format, thus making their content iPad ready. Yet, despite uncertainties, the iPad does open up a market of over 10 million users that publishers can target opening up a whole new business model that could be centered on selling through apps.

Publishers such as Condé Nast announced they were working on an iPad version even before the device became official, and according to a leaked memo will have GQ ready for the April launch, followed soon afterwards by Wired, Vanity Fair, New York and Glamour magazines.

Some publishers have even released demos of their iPad versions already, including the New York Times and Sports Illustrated, while Children’s novels such as the Toy Story and Alice in Wonderland are already on the iPad. In approximately two months, school textbooks will be available on the iPad in the form of highly interactive applications. TSTC Publishing is adding the first e-books to its inventory.

Yet questions still loom, will the iPad really transform publishing – boosting circulation numbers and opening up new audiences? Will selling content through apps and the iPad actually bring in additional revenues from end users?

With over 700000 introductory versions of the iPad already in homes, and thousands of people still awaiting their orders, one thing is clear – the iPad is here to stay. The rising number of apps also suggests that users are enthusiastic about milking this device to its full potential. iPad competitors such as Germany’s WePad, the Google tablet and more such devices, prove that this trend is here to stay, and publishers now have unlimited possibilities when it comes to creating interactive content.

While a huge problem is the investment required to optimize this platform, the sooner publishers realize the need to convert to ePub, (which is emerging as the industry standard, and whose open source features make it the ideal platform, accepted by a wide range of devices) the more return on investment in the long run. With the popularizing and acceptance of the value of e-based consumption of content, it is likely that content publishers will actually leverage interactive media to the fullest. Dynamic links and multimedia content will readily be embraced and supported by those that provide content.