This past week, a number of announcements in the digital publishing arena provide both promise and confusion over the immediate trajectory of the space overall, but in particular the magazine and book markets.
1. Adobe unveiled the Digital Publishing Suite at MAX, its annual worldwide developer/industry conference. The product/service, built on Adobe Creative Suite and Adobe InDesign CS5, adds cross platform distribution for magazine publishers as well as a hosted service that facilitates a new work flow/collaboration scheme for resource-constrained publishers.
2. As reported in my blog post on Oct. 27: Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest physical book retailer, is following up its November 2009 release of the Nook, an e-ink e-reader, with the NOOKcolor, a device that uses a 7-inch LCD/LED screen to display books, newspapers, magazines and a few additional services such as Pandora. The device is scheduled to be available on November 19th and will retail for $249. NOOKcolor uses WiFi to harvest content. It will be built on the Android 2.1 platform which means it will not be able to run Flash, but as the device’s OS is updated, Flash support is likely. The device will not have access to the Android Marketplace at launch. NOOKcolor will support Adobe’s DRM which means it’s likely to continue to allow download of e-books from public libraries.
3. Even before Windows 7 Phone has hit the mass market, Amazon has announced a Kindle App for the smart phone, giving it yet another platform for readers who purchase e-boos from Amazon.
I couple these formal announcements with two key take-aways from panels I moderated at MAX.
1. Magazines are still in their earliest days of understanding the digital opportunity as it relates to reading devices such as the iPad. Two fatal flaws that seem to be a common occurrence are taking published magazine content and created what I’d call “enhanced replicas.” Some are even proud that there’s minor incremental content cost by re-purposing print content for the tablet.
2. The more erudite book design world agrees that interactivity for the sake of interactivity is lost on most consumers as it only causes confusion. Publishers view interactivity as a “bright shiny object” (my words) and have yet to find its proper place in their respective internal hype cycles.
Piecing together these data points, consider the following:
1. Magazines may have a powerful trajectory ahead, but liftoff will not take place until they redefine the term periodical (why publish weekly when new efficiencies allows you to publish in real time if need be) as well as view the digital channel and device capability as a new publishing paradigm as opposed to a channel for somewhat dressed-up recycled. It will be a pity if publishers don’t view services such as Adobe’s hosted publishing suite as a mean to build collaborative efforts with new visionaries.
2. Magazines cannot get by much longer by ignoring or stating that the lack of advertising solutions for new digital channels is “uncharted.” It’s understandable that warring stakeholders in the device world stand in the way of scalable open solutions, but it’s time for publishers to demand open platforms to capitalize on bringing new, measurable ad experiences to the tablet and other similar devices.
3. Being a Libra gives me the excuse of looking at multiple sides of any issue. I now believe Amazon may not rush into the tablet market because it believes the digital magazine and newspaper opportunity isn’t close enough to build a hardware solution for an unproven market. As the world’s largest bookseller, why not continue to do what you do best.