Yet Another Voice on the iPad

by Adam on March 9, 2010

There are many voices on both sides of the iPad debate, many reasons both to love the device and feel that it could’ve been so much more (and maybe it will be in future iterations). My interest and excitement over Apple’s newest creation of course centers around all that it means for publishers. Yes, it goes beyond almost any other device out there right now, allowing for a 4-color immersive reading experience through the iBookstore that you can hold and feel and love in your hands, much like a real book. But what I find most appealing is the opportunity for content convergence and how it affects publishers’ prospects for digital distribution.

To back up: I think one of the hot topics of the digital publishing age is the idea of convergence – that as technologies evolve, so too will the ways in which we consume them, such that standards emerge that make it easier to connect producer and consumer across platforms. I see ePub as a great example of convergence in conversion – a standard that is evolving to the point where publishers can quickly move to the platforms of greatest potential.

On the iPad, I think we’ll see a huge convergence in terms of the ways in which consumers think about and access content. The iPad can open the door to publishers moving further into the online space and charging for premium content. The way I see this playing out: a consumer goes into the iBookstore and buys a cookbook for an amount set by the publisher. Within that cookbook there may be videos, audio, user comments (depending on how ambitious the publisher is in making it interactive), social sharing tools, etc. While reading through this cookbook, the consumer decides to switch over to the Safari and browse to to compare other recipes.

Now, what is the difference between that content being read in the iBookstore and that which is being read online? It’s minimal in terms of the experience, assuming that the publisher can add in all those bells and whistles (although the content in the cookbook may be of higher quality). Where I see this taking us is a blurring of lines in terms of where content originates and is consumed. And if that’s the case, couldn’t this open the door for publishers to begin charging for content online? To take the covers off, so to speak and sell individual chapters/stories/recipes off of a website, or setup some sort of premium subscription model? I feel confident it can, assuming that the books on the iPad really do take off (if they didn’t, I think we’d all be very surprised!).

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