Let’s get this on the table: even with talk of a deal between Harper Collins and Apple, the Apple Tablet will not be about e-books. Well, at least not the sorts of e-books we’ve seen on the Kindle, Nook and Sony Readers. I am now testing Sony’s Daily Edition and its reading experience is excellent, and I’d be hard pressed to imagine Apple offering something better for popular fiction titles. Apple’s sights have to be on three key areas: non-fiction, newspapers and magazines.
Non-fiction offers myriad options in terms of “value-added” bonus content. A cookbook that includes cooking videos, a textbook that showcases lectures from the author, a travel guide with daily updates on local events…that’s a revenue path publishers hope the Apple Tablet (as well as tablets from others) takes them. Tablets will be about displaying newspapers that look less like static RSS feeds (as we see on the current crop of single-purpose e-readers) and more like interactive, non-linear information hubs. Magazines don’t look like shadowy black and white ghosts of their physical brands and take advantage of the resplendent graphics, images and video.
It sounds like the alleged launch of Apple’s tablet will usher in a renaissance in the publishing world, but that’s overly optimistic thinking. Apple can offer the device, the platform and store for publishers to sell their wares but because it’s uncharted territory, Apple cannot guide publishers and developers with how-tos in the fine art of compelling publishing applications. Having seen many beta versions of publishing applications, I assure you there will be much trial and error before we see killer apps emerge for books, newspapers and magazines.
The key window which will determine whether the Apple Tablet takes off as a savior to publishers will be in the period between the expected announcement on January 27 and the product launch. That will be the time in which publishers and developers race to build apps that maintain brand and product integrity yet offer consumers content experiences worth buying…in bulk.