The iPad and Publishing: The Times They are a Changin’ (and have been for near a decade)

Unsuprisingly given the buzz on the net, I’ve been reading a fair bit about the iPad and how it may revolutionize computing and bring book publishing into the 21st century. Now, I won’t be providing any insight on whether or not I think the device will succeed (ala Iphone) or bomb (ala Newton). I can’t predict the future – what I can say is people like shiney things, and the iPad is definitely that. As to whether it will revolutionize computing, it’s too early to tell – what I can say is this:

  • A device which can’t aptly multi-task poses abit of a problem for me (gogo mild ADD).
  • A platform which promotes its ability to allow access to e-books, yet does not support e-ink to improve text readability seems to fall abit short.
  • A closed, proprietary platform, which limits how and what developers can provide again falls short. So you’d like to browse that flash website that was working perfectly fine for the last three years? Forget about it. So you want to run your Adobe Air based application that has served you well? Again, forget about it.
  • So you want to install a non-sanctioned application? Good luck you law breaker – you’ve just broken your user agreement, and invalidated your warranty.

    It’s for a combination of all these reasons (well, that and being a quasi-unemployed student) that keeps me from picking it up. Shiney – definitely – a necessity? Nope. I’ll stick to the Thinkpad, and avoid repeating my netbook fauxpas – buying a piece of hardware that collects dust.

    As to the publishing world, I expect more of the same in the shortterm. Publishers have been discussing the impact of digital books for the past decade, with little consensus. Issues such as how to price books, when to make books available, which format to provide books in (ePub anyone? Long live the PDF?), and how to handle digital rights are still up in the air. Hopefully publishers fare a little better than the music industry, and adapt to changing consumer demand (product format, product availability model, etc.) rather than fighting it. Businesses exist to provide services customers want – fighting the tide of change is counterproductive to that goal, if the potential for monetizing and generating profit can be brought to fruition. Lamenting a former business model is ineffective at best.

    If you haven’t been immersed in the publishing industry, there’s generally a few typical responses to e-books and digital publishing:

    1) Ignore it and hope it goes away
    2) Wait and see what others do – let them absorb the cost of testing the waters – so what, we’ve waited ten years, whats another couple?
    3) Gogo early adoption – rather rare for smaller cash strapped publishers

    If you’re interested in reading about the iPad, DaringFireball and Ars Technica have great writeups on it.

    If I’ve peaked your interest in the book publishing world, and the woes it faces, the Economist has two relevant articles on it, discussing the future of publishing and the future of bookstores.

    Until next time,


    Opening image courtesy of:

    Bjornmeanbear – Lock up on a metal Gutenberg-style press


    Author: sylint

    I'm a business analyst, working in Information Management and Information Technology. Technically, I'm a librarian, though I prefer to think of myself as professionally varied.

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