Stop the Presses

Yes – Apple modified their website to (finally) provide the delivery date of the iPad (3 April 2010) – and you can pre-order on the 12th of March for either delivery or pickup at your local Apple store.  But while simultaneously exciting and relieving to know the dates now, that is not the reason for today’s article.

The bulk of today’s subject is the effect a truly ubiquitous reading device will have on the traditional print media.  Interestingly enough, while perusing http://slashdot.org I came upon an interesting and well thought out blog on just that:  Books in the Age of iPad gives a very well thought out dive into the subject from someone who’s been making ‘dead tree’ books for some time.

To summarize – the content of traditionally printed material was either ‘formless’ (no formatting changes would alter the presentation or meaning of the work), or ‘definite’ (having a definite layout in relationship to the size and shape of the page and incorporating artistic elements as part of the work).  The author while being deep into the binding and creation of books, is intrigued by the potential for the new tools to basically do away with the kind of books that were never meant to survive a first reading – paperbacks.  Furthermore he sees the potential for the new medium to allow us now, for the first time to do two things really well: publish the kinds of works that thrived in the paperback medium easily and cheaply, and provide new and unanticipated ways of viewing and interacting with the content – even for those works where ‘defined’ content is relevant – not just the words themselves.

Terminology aside, he makes good points – and poses the question, “to what extent will this technology be a game changer over the next few years, and as we go through it, what will the traditional publishing houses look like afterwords?

From my perspective I think this is yet another traditional ‘middle-man’ business (in this case delivering written works of fiction and non-fiction) that will continue to be less and less relevant in a wired world.  Just like the music industry now going through the throes of 99-cent music on the iTunes store, other once highly profitable zero-content main-in-the-middle delivery businesses will have to change their scope and focus, or die.  Rupert Murdock’s thrashing all over the internet (bid to block Google from seeing his sites, to his recent call for BBC to not to have as much news programming because free content is impacting his business).

If I had to look into my crystal ball, I would say this wave is very quickly rising (it is logarithmic – and we are still on the front side of the wave – but it is getting very high and we are very high up on that wave now) – and now is the time to either ride it, get out of the way, or get crushed by it.  That being said, the old dinosaur content distribution entities still have a lot of money in the bank – and some of them seem intent on doing whatever it takes to keep their precious profit margins high.

For the content creators and their fans/customers – I don’t see this as a big deal.  There are so many ways now to reach an audience – either for profit or not – and the iPad just adds another means of doing that.

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