An article on paidcontent gives me pause for thought. In it, Penguin Books’ CEO John Makinson talks of plans to publish content on Apple’s forthcoming iPad device.
The iPad represents the first real opportunity to create a paid distribution model that will be attractive to consumers
This is all to do with the App store; somehow we are more willing to buy stuff on the App Store than to pay for other forms of content on the Internet. Penguin’s conclusion: make books into apps:
So for the time being at least we’ll be creating a lot of our content as applications, for sale on app stores and HTML, rather than in ebooks. The definition of the book itself is up for grabs.
Adobe’s .epub format is not good enough, apparently; only the full flexibility of a native application will do.
Two things strike as notable here. One is Makinson’s presumption that the iPad will be a big hit, thanks presumably to Apple’s success with iPod and iPhone. The tablet format has been a niche market in the past, because it lacks both the convenience of a pocketable mobile, and the capability of a keyboard-equipped netbook or laptop.
The second point is that here is a major publisher planning to create single-platform content that can only be sold through Apple and consumed on Apple’s devices.
Makinson does say “for sale on app stores and HTML”. I am not sure quite what he means; but clearly Penguin does not intend to use iPad apps for all its epublishing. Nevertheless, it raises the possibility of some content that is only on Apple, or best on Apple, or earliest on Apple.
If this idea takes hold, the consequence will be to disadvantage users of non-Apple devices. For example, what if you are on a course, and the recommended reading is only available as an Apple application?
I am already experiencing some of this pressure. I was at a conference earlier this week where the organisers provided an iPhone app to help attendees schedule their time:
This year QCon also has an iPhone app allowing you to browse the schedule by track, by time, favourite a track and access the #qcon twitter channel.
This is not a trend that I welcome. In some respects it is worse than having to run Windows for the sake of some particular application, since iPhone apps have to be approved by Apple, and emulators that have helped us cope with Windows-only requirements do not exist.
I do not have an iPhone; but I am beginning to think that it is a business requirement.