Whatever you think about Apple and its products, it’s hard to deny that their marketing machine does an excellent job projecting the company as both a technological leader and cultural trend-setter. The latest gizmo to get the full Apple-hype treatment is the iPad, which has been variously described as everything from the greatest invention since sliced bread to the greatest invention of all time.
As a piece of technology, I don’t have an opinion about the iPad. It lies outside my interests, and there’s no scenario in which I see myself needing one or buying one.
What’s most interesting to me about the iPad is how the book business has both embraced and distanced itself from the device, as if it’s critical to publishing’s aims. To the extent that the iPad creates pretty portable pictures, I can see how that might serve the aims of an art book, but when it comes to text I see no inherent advantage in the iPad over any other e-reading device.
More to the point, as a content creator I see the iPad as essentially meaningless. The works I create are almost completely described by text (no images, little formatting), and my goal for that content is to make it device independent. Because the ePub and PDF file formats already allow me to do that, the existence or non-existence of the iPad (and any other similar device) is a non-issue for me.
I’m not waiting for the iPad to make my work viable, portable, deliverable or readable. If it sells like hotcakes, great. If it doesn’t, great. Apple’s market share is nothing I care about, and the same goes for Amazon, Sony, and anybody else who intends to enter the e-reader marketplace. I’m taking my content directly to readers one way or the other, and nobody’s going to get in the way of that. Anyone who tries to do so by controlling the technology will be undermined by the competition. Anyone who tries to do so by controlling the market will be side-stepped and cut down by the internet.
— Mark Barrett
It’s all about distribution. Apple has a proven track record of turning files into money for publishers. MP3’s were not profitable until the iPod, or more accurately, until iTunes.
The publishers hope/want/are being sold on the concept that the iPad will do for books, what the iPod did for music. That is to give a legitimate controllable revenue stream for the product. Giving them a platform for delivery that puts money in their pockets and a platform run by a control freak who will make sure the publishers get everything they want while the public is sold things they don’t want and take it.
Basically the publishers want Steve Jobs as an ally, the way the music industry used him as an ally. They want his marketing skills to be used to get book readers buying a bad deal.
This is not about iPad vs Kindle. It’s about Amazon’s virtual bookstore vs Apple’s. And Apple’s store will most likely blow the doors off Amazon’s. If publishers buy what Steve is selling them then the iPad will change books. Even though for the money a Kindle is a better product for people who like to read.
I agree that publishing hopes to get a kick from Apple’s store and related tech, and I agree with your assessment that the real battle is between Amazon and Apple. One interesting difference between this dynamic and what happened in the music biz is that there was no ‘Amazon’ equivalent for music CD’s — and I include Amazon when I say that. It’s definitely to the publishing industry’s advantage to have two players competing for market share, even as both are trying to drive prices down.
If I try to imagine the ideal iPad scenario, it’s moving pictures — meaning TV. Couple the idea of a portable tablet/TV with the ESPN/YouTube emphasis on video clips (which allow you to force viewers to watch an ad before seeing the clip of interest) and I think there’s a lot of potential there. (If I was Apple I would outfit iPads for sports fans, so they could take them to the stadium and have individual/real-time access to stats, replays, video clips, their fantasy league — everything they might want to have access to if they stayed at home with the TV/PC.)
The other issue is a medium you may or may not consider legitimate, Comic Books. Wednesdays are about to die, and the iPad is the reason. Comics are going to go through their biggest boom period ever, as America realizes you don’t have to be a collector to be a reader.
the iPad has no competitor there, and Disney just bought Marvel. Those two companies will make extremely large amounts of money together.
I’ve speculated that online piracy is a less-important problem for text-based storytellers simply because it’s harder to read a book than it is to watch a movie. (You have to concentrate more, and pre-process the language in order to understand the meaning.)
I would think piracy of comics might actually be a serious threat to the comics business for exactly the same reason: comics (even graphic novels) are relatively easy to digest because of their reliance on images. (I’m not saying they’re a lesser form.)
I don’t know anything about how rampant the scanning and sharing of comics is right now, but something like the iPad could easily make it explode — and particularly so among Gen Y users who genuinely feel that online content should be free content. It will be interesting to see if the comics market suffers a price collapse in the near future.
Print comics have been “about to die” for almost fifteen years now.
“The works I create are almost completely described by text (no images, little formatting), and my goal for that content is to make it device independent.”
This is a very important thing for eBook creators to remember, and I wish that they’d take it more to heart.
What brings me to a book is TEXT. I don’t care about fonts, I don’t care about justification, I don’t care about line breaks or indentures or creative use of whitespace. As far as I’m concerned, e-books should be distributed as flat ASCII files and I can format them however the hell I want.
Like you, I tend to think of most content as formless. Many authors disagree however, and many readers want the option of controlling options and choices that were never open for discussion in book form (font type, for example).
A lot of this seems to me to be about either artistic vision or customer service, and not so much about words themselves. As such, I personally find it distracting, even as I understand that it’s the new reality.