Today is the big day: Apple will unveil its new tablet, which will be interesting not only for those who love Apple toys but for everyone involved in publishing as well. As this NY Times article observes, “Apple may be giving the media industry a kind of time machine — a chance to undo mistakes of the past.”
That is, whereas print media has been suffering as more and more readers resist paying for content, the Apple tablet will introduce new ways to market — and charge for — digital content. As the Times notes, such devices make consumers more willing to pay for content: “In the last decade, while people downloaded music illegally to their desktop computers, they happily paid small amounts of money on their cellphones to download ring tones and send text messages.” So far, at least three magazine publishers are preparing to distribute content on the new tablet.
The iPad will also have an effect on Amazon’s Kindle. As the Daily Beast reports, “Only two years ago, [Apple founder Steve] Jobs contemptuously predicted that the Kindle would flop.” And now that readers have embraced the Kindle (and its very low prices, set by Amazon to the dismay of publishers), Apple will come out on the publishers’ side by allowing them to set their own prices. This will be a relief to those in the industry who worry about readers getting accustomed to paying $9.99 for Kindle versions of hardcover bestsellers.
And so the rules of the game are changing once again. The Daily Beast notes, “In anticipation of Apple’s tablet launch, Amazon announced that it would begin giving a more favorable split of Kindle sales dollars to publishers and authors. Amazon also decided to allow outsiders to create software to run on its device.”
I’m eager to see the tablet, not only because it’s a cool new toy but to see what effect it ultimately has on publishing. Even though it’s Amazon that is taking a loss by pricing books so low, this does affect the entire industry, and it’ll be interesting to see whether this new device levels out the playing field a bit.