Why Apple’s iPad Is So Significant To The Future Of Publishing

It wast much of a surprise that in the hours leading up to and following Apple’s official unveiling of the iPad, “Kindle” was also a trending topic on Twitter. Whether the iPad will kill the Kindle is on a lot of people’s minds and while I’m not going to speculate on the future of the Kindle, I think you can be pretty damn sure that Jeff Bezos didn’t sleep well this week. For what it’s worth, I think Apple’s about to float comfortably into an almost uncontested blue ocean where competing with the Kindle won’t be much of a concern. But most importantly, this launch is going to shift publishing practices and change consumer behavior and expectations significantly this year. Here’s why…

First, The Bad

Before I say anything, I do share some concerns with the iPad’s design. No multitasking, no camera, and no Flash makes me scratch my head a little. Including a camera seems like a no-brainer. The only reason I can think to leave it out would be to reduce the cost to hit a price point. I have a feeling people will complain about their inability to use iChat or use Skype video etc.

Not being able to view Flash content when you browse the web on a screen that big is also a downer – you’re going to have holes in some websites, and you can forget about streaming video. Also, no multitasking completely eliminates the iPad’s ability to compete with even the simplest netbooks. Not having multitasking on the iPhone isn’t that big a deal in my eyes, but I have a feeling that with the larger screen people will expect more of a laptop like experience. That said…

The Market Is Primed For An In-Between Product That Improves The Reading Experience

You might say that the iPad is just a jumbo oreo, and that Apple’s R&D team has lost it’s magic touch. I’m not convinced that that argument has legs, though. True, what’s missing in the iPad’s design gives some of us pause, and the device doesn’t seem to be well-positioned to compete with netbooks, but I don’t think that’s the point.

Even with what it’s missing in this first-generation design, it’s clear that Apple is going to clear the “reading experience” hurdle that plagues the iPhone, and bring users a rich multimedia experience that other ereaders can’t match.

Creating a better reading experience on a screen is what this movement towards ereaders is all about. And that’s all they really had to do with this release – take everything we love about the iPhone, create a significantly better default reading experience and give it lots of screen real-estate for app developers to go wild. That’s it. And that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Here are a couple of videos from Popular Science’s vault that show what the reading experience is actually like on the iPad. It’s obvious that this is where the Apple R&D team put a lot of their effort:

The iPad Is The Best Positioned Device To Become The Next Major Platform For Innovation

If you ignore the device’s shortcomings and focus instead on what the device has going for it, it’s hard to argue that Apple isn’t well positioned to shake up the market:

  • Familiarity Is An Important Intangible Asset: Millions of people already use iPhones and are familiar with the interface, the apps, the app store and iTunes. The Jumbo Oreo can be a good thing when it comes to adoption because it eliminates the perception of learning curves for consumers – don’t forget that just holding a tablet creates a completely new computing experience. Going “too innovative, too fast” could actually put Apple at risk for releasing something too different that turns mainstream consumers off. By sticking with the familiar UI, look and feel, consumers know what they’re going to get – and make no mistake, initial perceived value can make or break a product. This thing hasn’t even been released and consumers that are usually at the center of the adoption curve are probably already confident that they’ll be expert users on day one, even though the device represents a paradigm shift in computing. Chew on that for a second.

  • Consumer Lock In: iTunes users and iPhone owners already have tons of purchased content and apps that they can start using the second they open the box. There isn’t a single other competing device that that’s true for in this market. Access to 140,000 apps at your fingertips. From day one.
  • Apple’s (probably) Not Excluding Other Book Publishers: Users will likely be able to read their Kindle and B&N e-book purchases on the iPad. It doesn’t make sense that they’ll stop Amazon, B&N and any of the independent e-book publishers from creating their own applications. There’s always the possibility that Apple could decide that these apps now “duplicate” a core feature of its own apps and ban all other e-reader apps from the devices, but that this seems like a highly unlikely scenario.
  • It’s all about the apps and the developer gold rush: It was a smart move by Apple to announce the device AND the iPad developer platform together, a full 60 days before the device is going to be available for purchase. You can bet your ass there are hundreds of developers busting their hump to make release day. We all saw what happened with the iPhone app store, and the developers know how important it is to be first to market. This’ll just be a rinse and repeat exercise – and this time, Apple’s given developers a ton more screen real estate to work with and opened the doors for new companies to focus on creating rich reading experiences. This’ll increase the size of Apple’s army of developers and companies that are going out of their way to push their apps and do the marketing for Apple. The structure of the marketing effort is completely different than any other eReader launch. After seeing what’s happened with the iPhone over the last 2 years, people are expecting the iPad to be able to do things it can’t even do yet on day one – and they’re also expecting the device’s utility and versatility to increase over time – more apps will come

The Reading Experience Itself Is Going To Change

I’ll say it one more time for emphasis (sorry) – it’s all about the apps – that’s where the real innovation is going to happen, and that’s where consumers are expecting it to happen. They don’t want a crazy new device they have to learn how to use – they want something they know how to use that does new and useful things.  The extra screen real estate is exactly what developers have been waiting for, and it’s all they need to change the way we think about reading.

One of the innovations I’m most excited about is multimedia enriched books. Those of us who are used to reading and learning on the web have been waiting eagerly for this. There’s a company who’s already in pole position to deliver – Vook.com. The cleverly named “Vooks” (part video part book) are going to be some of the first instances of mutlimedia rich story telling on platforms like the iPad – and they’re not a part of the hardware – they’re apps. Seth Godin‘s already announced that he’s getting on the bandwagon, and Gary Vaynerchuck‘s got his latest book Crush It! on Vook already (and why the hell wouldn’t you want to experience Gary’s energy and exuberance on video along with his writing).



The point is that the “book” as a product is about to change. Long form content is going to start looking a lot more like web content – learning text will be accompanied by video tutorials, cook books will have recipes with matching technique segments and fiction texts will start looking a lot more like Myst. If players who are making these new multimedia apps can get the pricing right the floodgates will open and there’ll be no looking back. I’m not saying that books will disappear, I’m just saying that the iPad as a platform opens the market up to many more options and lots of innovation that extend the long tail of the marketplace for reading experiences.

And all of this together is why Apple’s iPad is going to be significant to publishing.

Thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments.


  1. January 29, 2010 at 11:59 am ·

    While I love the capability, no multitasking, no camera, and no Flash are huge for me. In fact, I want a phone built in (they should have a separate model for this) and not just a camera, but full video that you can capture, edit and upload to YouTube. As with the iPhone, I'm thinking version 2 will be sweet, and version 3 what we really want. That said, I'm sure Apple will sell a ton of these.

    • January 29, 2010 at 12:12 pm ·

      I don't think there's doubt in anyone's minds that they're going to kill it
      on launch day. I have a feeling that version 2 is going to see some major
      upgrades. It's smart strategy to release a stripped down version of the
      product and release it cheaply, though – despite what we may want. They can
      hit the lowest price point possible and make major changes in version 2 -
      they always do when the flood of feedback comes in this year.

  2. January 29, 2010 at 1:16 pm ·

    I don't mean to completely ignore the focus of the post (I did read it and do generally agree with the thesis) and hijack the comments… but I'm going to do it anyway :D

    I've read a lot of people complain about the lack of a camera, no sd slot, no multitasking, no flash, etc.

    My question: who cares about these things?

    When I think of the amount of time I spend: emailing, general browsing of the web, reading posts, reading rss feeds, reading books/magazines/newspapers, watching tv shows and movies VERSUS the amount of time I spend video chatting with someone. The ratio is laughable. I cringed when I read RWW's headline that no camera was going to ruin the ipad.

    Multitasking feels like it falls into the 'seems like an acute problem until you actually think about it' bucket. I can count on one hand the times that I've actually been annoyed with no multitasking on the iphone after 2+ years of heavy usage. That doesn't seem like a must-have feature (I'd much rather have the extended battery life that comes from single-app usage).

    Flash may be legitimately missed during day-to-day usage, the jury is still out on this in my opinion.

    • January 29, 2010 at 2:44 pm ·

      Great points. I'm definitely in agreement about the multitasking on the iPhone – it's never really bothered me (which I said in the post). The issue I think with not having multitasking with a larger screen for some consumers (and I'm obviously speculating here) is that your usage patterns will change enough that it could become frustrating. I don't sit with my iPhone for long periods of time and read, surf the web or look through my photos. My usage is characterized by short focused bursts. The iPad seems like something I'd want to curl up on the couch with and read for longer periods, or work on a presentation while listening to music etc. We'll see how people actually use it.

      You're right about the camera – the amount of time that you'd use it likely pales in comparison to other functions. What confuses me is why the conscious decision to leave it out when so many existing apps utilize the iPhone camera. It just seems like a step backward from the iPhone. It's certainly not an engineering challenge, and the inclusion of the camera would probably get a lot of other developers on board. Either way, as I implied in the post, the lack of camera is certainly not going to be a deal breaker.

      Flash is still going to be legitimately missed IMO. I read too many blogs that are heavy video – tutorial sites especially.

    • January 29, 2010 at 2:52 pm ·

      Here's the question that I've got burning….will the size of the screen and the intended use (extended reading) be enough to change behavior with the device to make people want a laptop-like experience?

      • February 1, 2010 at 10:07 am ·

        That is my $500 question :D

        • February 1, 2010 at 11:33 am ·

          been thinking about this a lot this weekend – I can't imagine staring at an LED screen for more than 30-40 minutes of reading without eye strain setting in. that's a make or break for me, considering that 500$ is pretty much my annual book/magazine budget.

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  4. acurtisdisqus
    January 30, 2010 at 12:49 am ·

    Steffan, great write up. Although I am not (by nature) an Apple fan, I am a dedicated iPhone user and am expecting the iPad to be the next “break-through” personal device, much as the iPhone was in the mobile market. Change is never welcome to the masses, and those who are loyal to cover print may be hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. However, there are three things that strike me about this device:

    1) The price point – at $600 it rivals that of most out-of-the-box PC based laptops, and unless you are using it for specific business & multitasking purposes it should fulfill most user needs. Having said that, it was not meant to replace the mobile PC, and hopefully that will be included in the corporate sales pitch.

    2) I could never imagine myself reading a book, “cover to cover”… digitally. However, after seeing some screenshots of the UI that the iPad is planning to offer it makes it so convenient that you almost ask yourself why would I spend the time finding and purchasing the book… in physical form.

    3) The Apple Intanglible – We can expect that the design of the iPad will be as user friendly and welcoming as the iPhone, if not more so. Apple has that special “design talent”, much as Nike owns the branding world. I don't expect anything less from them with this device.

    It will be interesting to see if the iPad carries itself as well as the iPhone. Tough to compare the two, simply because of the size of the mobile phone market and it's innate demand. They are two different products, and serve different purposes. However, Apple has set the bar so high over the past few years, it's hard to expect anything less from them.

    • January 30, 2010 at 7:34 pm ·

      I'm also waiting to see what it's like reading a book “cover to cover” digitally. But that's what's so hard about guessing about the future of this thing, isn't it? I agree…I saw the demo and I went “woah!” that'll be cool to read on, but how long does that cool factor actually last. I know a few people that swear by their kindle and say that e-ink is far superior (doesn't hurt the eyes etc), but they also say that the Kindle reading experience still doesn't beat cracking open a physical book…that kind of makes me wonder. Apple's definitely set the bar high and the demo looked good, but I want to get my hands on one of these and see what it's like actually reading for an hour or two with it. Maybe we can head over to the apple store one day at lunch after this sucker gets released ;-).

      • acurtisdisqus
        January 30, 2010 at 10:34 pm ·

        Definately, let's do it. I can't wait to see this puppy in person. Is it going to feel like a netbook, or a blownup iPhone? Never know till you see the UI. The folks at Apple are so creative, and that is what has my attention more so than the deviceconcept itself… seeing it will answer the rest. Yep, and will the nostalgia wear off? So many questions yet to be answered. My Pops swears by his Kindle and maybe the fact that he already shelled out $300 for it is keeping his mind somewhat closed to the option of the iPad. I think you and Kurt nailed it, you know Kindle going to hold some loyal market share, so compromise by releasing a Kindle app… plant the seed on the iPad platform. Anyhow, let's plan to interview this bad boy in person!

  5. kurtmunz
    January 30, 2010 at 5:00 am ·

    “It was not meant to replace the mobile PC.” What is it intended to do, actually?

    It's a book reader… but not as good as the Kindle's e-ink, by most tastes.

    It's a mobile PC, but not as good because it lacks flash and muti-tasking.

    It's an excellent travel device, except it doesn't have a camera (and believe me, the travel segment is definitely the one that NEEDS Skype). It has no SD slot to easily share photos either.

    It's a great Ipod, except not nearly as portable.

    It's the premier way to experience the web, unless you want the web to include embedded streaming video using flash.

    …The Iphone filled a very real need. People wanted to take the internet with them on their phone, but there wasn't a device that could do so in a way that didn't suck.

    I think these will sell well, but Steffan is 100% right. It's not for the merits of the device. It's for the merits of it's huge library of apps. I don't think we're looking at a breakthrough product just yet, however. I know many folks who seem to think the Ipad a cool product, but don't plan to buy one. They don't need it.

    Ps. Amazon would be wise to take a loss on Kindle's in favor of wide adoption. It might even be too late.

    • January 30, 2010 at 7:37 pm ·

      Great line at the end there, Kurt. I agree – Amazon should definitely release a “Kindle” app for the iPad and let come what may. It would be a mistake to try and compete directly by limiting the distribution of the Kindle edition books.

  6. Todd
    January 30, 2010 at 12:12 pm ·

    *sigh* another one of these reports on Apple's latest product from someone who doesn't understand what the purpose of the device is nor what it's truly capable of.

    Multitasking is software and there are numerous reports that it will appear by the summer. If not, there are already apps that do multitasking for the iphone that will suffice until then.

    Streaming video is of course possible. Flash is not needed at all…for anything and I applaud Jobs' stance on not acquiescing to Adobe's demands to have it enabled on the OS.

    Camera is an attachment to the iPad. In testing the device Apple realized the far majority of the people who will use this device will not be using it for chat. It's NOT what's its designed for. Think about how the iPad will be used…while reclining on a chair or sofa…obviously, very obviously not the ideal position for iChat.

    Please use your brain.

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  8. kurtmunz
    February 1, 2010 at 5:03 am ·

    David Carr from The New York Times has his own idea about what's it's for. It's for consumption of media vice creation.

    When you put that lens on it, does the Ipad make sense on the YouTube, Twitter, high-interactivity web? Probably. How many of you have used wikipedia without ever adding to an article?

    • February 1, 2010 at 8:17 am ·

      Interesting take. Got a link to the article? I'd like to read it.

      • kurtmunz
        February 1, 2010 at 11:12 am ·

        Click on the red text… ;-)

  9. February 1, 2010 at 11:14 am ·

    Aaah…see that didn't come through on the comment email I replied to. ::sheepish grin::

  10. February 2, 2010 at 9:54 am ·

    Even though I'm an avid fan of Apple…I am really the iPad's target market, but I don't think there are many of me's around. I have a branding/design/web business and now a magazine business. I have never owned a laptop. Why? Part of it is budget and price – every time I get to a point where I might go for it, boom…another report of upgrades to the Macbook line. So I wait. It hasn't hurt me – I do most of my “heavy-lifting” work in my office (meaning anything with CS3)

    Here's my experience and rational for Macbook/No Macbook – I went on a trip for a few days to see my dad, I took a rented Macbook. During that trip, I did nothing and didn't need to with the Adobe's Creative Suite – Now, with my client's web sites? You bet I had work to do. All of that was done through an FTP client and writing/editing code was done through TextWrangler. When I got my iPhone I practiced many times, going to a coffee shop and seeing if I would need anything more than my iPhone. Nope…If I'm in my mobile environment, I either don't want do tasks that require heavy-lifting, or never have the demand.

    Because of my lack of a Macbook, my iPhone has now become my Macbook…I can do anything I can dream of on it, except run InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop (yes, there's a Photoshop app, but you still can't resize photos with it, nor are there any apps to my knowledge that do this, I've searched high and low.) I can write and edit code in real time, upload files, do anything in the Office Suite, easily update my blogs, scour Google Analytics with an acceptable and beautiful app (as opposed to using Safari,) start/stop/test my servers, and with Evernote, Instapaper, NetNewsWire and all the news apps I have plenty to read and research.

    For me, I'm already trained and prepped for the iPad. I will do a first in my book, I will buy V.1 – and when the second comes out, I'll give V.1 to my sister so she can use it for her jewelry business among other things (she hasn't graduated to an MP3 player yet.) I usually wait, but with this one, I'm ready for it.

    As for Flash and what's not in it? Jobs himself said everybody's moving to HTML5 – have a look at this: http://jilion.com/sublime/video Amazing that they did that with HTML5 and it's beautiful. The camera was indeed included and may have been shelved for cost, as you said. However, I don't think that Apple spilled all the beans on the iPad. I truly believe they kept some things from us. 60 days is a pretty good stretch of time for the stuff they deemed “not ready” – I could be wrong. Multitasking to me is a good trade-off for security and stability.

    and I can't wait(!) for the new iPhone – an A+ upgrade sounds pretty good to me and my 2 years will be up for renewal.

  11. February 2, 2010 at 10:05 am ·

    Steffan – love your write up btw – apologies for not including that. If anyone wonders about the Macbook I've been waiting on, it's the MacBook Pro with all of the horsepower available.

    • February 2, 2010 at 11:11 am ·

      Thanks, man :). I'm waiting on an iPhone upgrade myself. My contract'll be
      up at the end of this year – kindof hope that I'll be able to take up a new
      contract on Verizon. When you do buy the iPad, let me know what it's like. I
      wont likely be buying V.1 but I am excited about device and what it means
      for the future.

      • February 2, 2010 at 11:38 am ·

        Will do! I've heard chatter of some people will be ditching their iPhone and replacing it with an iPad, getting a Droid phone on Verizon…

        • February 2, 2010 at 11:47 am ·

          here's what I know for sure. I am not going to be one of those people.

  12. February 7, 2010 at 11:53 pm ·

    I'm a little late to this party having found this post via a Google search, but I'll give my unsolicited two cents anyway.

    Like many people watching the build-up to The Announcement and then processing my own reaction as someone who's waited for a laptop replacement from Apple (for like, seven years now), I felt all quirky inside for days afterward. Could I actually use this thing when I backpack in Europe instead of my 13” MacBook, which I can’t really carry around all day due to its size and weight? Or is this the breaking point where I finally say, How bad can Windows 7 really be on a netbook?

    When the MacBook Air came out, I was truly disappointed. Yes, it was light and ran OS X but its dimensions and horsepower didn’t make it any more attractive than my MacBook. So I didn’t get one. The iPhone was a major step in the right direction because I could lose my Treo 650 and iPod (and also now I don’t need a separate GPS). For me, Apple can produce something great sometimes and something useless other times. And typically there is a whole lot of pooh-poohing and guffawing before any Apple product finds its niche. I think that’s the case with the iPad.

    After having actually looked at netbooks running Windows 7 and grimacing at their own under-powered Atom processors and under-sized screens & keyboards, I had to really ask myself, what exactly do I want from the iPad?

    One thing I know I would not want to do is use a netbook as an ebook reader. I might as well use my iPhone because the screen (at least for reading straight text) is just as easy to view ebooks on (in landscape mode) as a netbook. Plus I have a Kindle reader so clearly when the iPad comes out I can use its beautiful color display as an ebook reader and the iPad’s own reader app, so I can have the best of both worlds. On that front, the iPad will be the best digital text reader, not even considering the possibilities of embedded multimedia.

    @kurtmunz says as a reader it’s “not as good as the Kindle’s e-ink by most tastes.” Uh, most people (read: nearly everyone) haven’t had the opportunity to compare the two so I hardly see how you can make this comment with any credibility whatsoever. The iPad’s ebook reader even in its monochromatic version seems far better than E ink which still has the annoying redraw interval. My guess is the iPad will trounce the Kindle eventually for exactly the reason you claim is its short-coming.

    The other things I use my laptop for while traveling are email, web, and photography. Like with the iPhone app for ereader, there’s already loads of apps for mail, web, organizing photos. But I like to use Photoshop while traveling to crop, color correct, and make panoramas. If the ability to do that becomes available, combined with a portable Bluetooth keyboard, then I finally have the ultimate form factor to do nearly everything I need, require, or expect of a laptop, all in an extremely portable device, something the Air shudda, wudda, cudda, been but wasn’t. (I would expect to keep the keyboard separately in my luggage and set that up once I’m in my hotel but use the iPad’s on-screen keyboard while out walking around or on a train/plane/bus.)

    Remember when the first iMacs came out and there was no disk drive? Everyone flipped out. Oh, my gawd, how will we ever transfer our files without a floppy disk drive? But it was soon apparent we didn’t need them. I think the same will be true of Flash for web pages. Flash is a buggy technology and is the cause of more slow-downs and crashes in browsers than any other reason. As to the Missing Camera, well again, I have to ask myself, how often do I really need a camera? I hardly ever use video Skype because typically the other person isn’t in front of a camera. I’m certainly not going to hold up a big honking iPad to take my photos with, that’s completely nuts. Would a camera be nice? Sure. Does it matter it’s not in the first-gen iPad? Definitely not.

    As to the comment by @kurtmunz that it’s not a mobile PC because “it lacks flash and muti-tasking [sic]” I say: No, we had laptops for years before flash and multitasking existed. The reason it’s not a “mobile PC” is because it doesn’t have a viable file/folder system that gives the user access to where, when, and how files are manipulated. (In fact, that might actually be my biggest complaint: the iPad forces a flat file structure on the user without any alternative.) To be completely honest, what I would’ve liked to have seen with the iPad is a fully functioning OS X but with an iPhone interface that could be turned off. But that leaves the last big issue…

    Namely, multitasking, which is great on my MacBook and Mac Pro but the latter is always plugged in and the former has to be recharged every few hours. Imagine getting as much as 10 hours on a charge on a portable device! Multitasking will devastate that number and make it something you have to recharge all the time (which is a big annoyance with the iPhone still).

    Ultimately, I see the iPad as something I can use to replace my notebook for all the reasons people have been complaining about:
    - It does email, web, and other net access via any number of app-store applications, but if for some strange reason Flash is required in your world then it just won’t now, or ever, work for you.
    - It doesn’t need a camera! You can Skype using your voice at one-tenth the band-width.
    - It will be the singularly best e-book reader once the ibook store meme takes hold (exactly as iTunes has done for music and the app store has done for the smart phone).
    - It doesn’t need an SD card reader because wifi will be the default way to transfer photos eventually and you can now with an EyeFi SD card. Hey, most netbooks don’t have SD slots either!
    - It shouldn’t support multitasking as that ruins battery life and like the camera, you just don’t really need it. The one multitask (iPod playing in the background while you do something else), likely will be supported.

    As tothe comment by @Steffan about staring at it without getting eyestrain: Are you staring at an LED right now while you read this? Don’t you stare at an LED screen all day long without getting eye strain? I just don’t see how looking at an iPad for a few hours at a time with its beautiful display is any different than looking at any other LED display, unless you’re saying that looking at something much smaller than a normal monitor is what’s causing the eye strain. In which case, I’ll have to wait and see.

    Mostly I see a lot of trumped up arguments as to why it won’t or can’t work as a laptop replacement but I think in the long run it’s going to be another iPod phenomenon: At first people won’t get it but eventually you’ll see them everywhere, even by people who didn’t think they’d buy one initially.

    That’s my two cents worth.

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  14. kurtmunz
    March 22, 2010 at 4:35 pm ·
  15. March 22, 2010 at 4:37 pm ·

    Hahhaha. Beat you to it. I tweeted it about this like 10 minutes ago. Good
    to see you're up on it!!