Posts Tagged iPad
Last year, when the iPad launched, everyone was praising Apple as the saviour of the publishing industry. Well, that was until, being Apple, they announced that they would be charging 30% of every purchase of a newspaper, ebook, magazine or subscription on an iPad and they would not share subscriber data with publishers. Not surprisingly, this sparked a significant backlash – the 30% was higher than the profit margin that many publishers made from their products and it drove a few ebook stores out of business, or at least off the iPad. It has also created huge difficulties for publishers in transferring subscribers to their iPads apps, meaning that, for instance, my New Yorker subscription is currently worthless as far as my iPad is concerned, meaning that I am required to pay $6 per issue if I want it on my iPad, even though the print version will arrive in my mailbox a few days later.
Luckily, it looks like the publishing industry Is fighting back. Hopefully, this will force Apple to re-think their ridiculous policy, otherwise the iPad will simply not be able to live-up to it’s full potential, since publishers won’t allow their products on it.
The app is downloaded from a web browser – side-stepping Apple’s rigid controls on crucial subscriber information as well as its hefty 30 per cent commission.
…The FT’s chief executive, John Ridding, said: ”This is not about Apple. It’s about our readers and making sure they have a consistent experience.”
The pricing in News Ltd’s recently announced pay wall will favour its website over apps sold through Apple’s iTunes, which takes $2.70 a month from every subscription to The Australian app, leaving just $6.29 for the company that makes it.
News said app subscriptions ”will not give full access” to the new web and mobile sites, while those who paid News directly would. Given the price for each will be similar, readers will get more if they pay News instead of Apple.
UPDATE: It seems Apple have already caved. Serves me right for trusting Fairfax for up-to-date news, no wonder they’re going under…
An Apple spokesman confirmed today that the company revised its policies, loosening the rule requiring media app developers to only offer content for purchase through iTunes. Also, Apple dropped language that required media companies to offer paid content on the same or better terms than what they offer elsewhere.
The changes come as media owners resist the restrictions posed by Apple’s guidelines and some, like Pearson’s Financial Times, have experimented with ways to get around the guidelines but still make their content available on Apple’s popular devices.
Thanks News Ltd for giving today’s news, I will now buy your product and not Fairfax’s. Isn’t capitalism a beautiful thing?
Taking a break from death and violence in the Middle-East…
Apple unveiled their new iPad 2 last night (Sydney time). I’m generally a big fan of Apple’s products, I love their innovation and usability as well as the great consumer experience. I was going to buy an original iPad at one stage, but was convinced that waiting for the second model would be a better idea, since it would definitely show some fantastic improvements.
Not so, the second version of the tablet is not exactly awe-inspiring. The upgrades they have made, besides a fancy new cover, are pretty much no-brainers – a slight redesign to make it smaller and lighter, a faster processor and cameras. The improvements to the OS are also quite minimal – free photoediting software, better streaming and a faster browser.
They have also allowed you to change the side button, which seems exactly like the iPhone’s mute button but for some reason locks the screen instead, into a mute button. And they have allowed internet tethering from an iPhone to an iPad, so that you can use your iPad for internet without having to switch sim cards and not have a phone, which is especially annoying to do as Apple figured they would make it extremely difficult to remove the sim card from the iPhone, also for no apparent reason.
These are things that really should have been included in the first place. There’s no reason for their exclusion besides Apple’s “we know best” mantra.
This is all extremely underwhelming. There are so many things that should have been there that I can’t even write about them in detail, I’ll just list them here:
- External memory capabilities – you have large apps, a music collection and a movies collection, all in high quality. When you can buy a flash drive with 1,000gb for $80, spending $1k on a 64gb device doesn’t seem so appealing.
- Better display – sure the graphics are faster, but I want them clearer.
- More magazines, books and movies – Apple has done very well in getting music into its iTunes store, not so for other media. Their insistence on charging 30% commission on everything means that publishers and film studios are signing deals with Google or Amazon and holding-out against Apple.
An OS overhaul:
- Better Safari – The little iPhone version is fine on a tiny screen, but I’m always frustrated that the iPad one lacks functionality like proper tabs, extensions, themes and everything else that you have on a regular computer.
- Flash!!!! – Steve Jobs needs to get off his high horse here. Whatever you want to say about battery life, processor speeds etc, without flash too much of the internet is not usable.
- Windows/widgets – why can I not have keynote and pages open at the same time? Why do I have to leave safari to check my mail or update twitter? It massively detracts from the potential uses of the iPad.
- Expose – the little dock thing is not the ideal way to switch through apps. Apple has a great way of looking at different screens and switching between them, why isn’t the iPad able to do this?
What this means is that Apple’s competition is starting to look much more appealing, they will have a lot of these features that Apple has left-out.
In a funny coincidence, a whole pile of books from www.bookdepository.com arrived in my letterbox yesterday, then today I read in the newspaper (yep, paper! Crazy huh?) that the biggest chain of bookstores in Australia, Angus and Robertson, who also own the Australian Borders stores, are being forced to hand over to a corporate recovery firm.
Naturally, they blame the internet. And as someone who rarely buys books in bookstores anymore since they are so much cheaper online, I can see why. Book prices in Australia are driven up by some irresponsible government protectionism over our domestic publishing industry, the fact that overseas purchases are currently GST-free, as well as the usual issues of high salaries and high rental costs for retail properties.
To explain the protectionism, for any new title, if an Australian publishing firm secures publishing rights to it within 30 days, Australian retailers are forced to sell the domestically-produced book and are not allowed to import foreign editions. This forces the prices up firstly because of the small scale of Australia’s industry and secondly because it means that the domestic publishers have no one to compete with besides each other.
On a Global Level
The other internet story, of course, is ebooks. Since Amazon’s Kindle, Borders’ Kobo, Sony’s Ereader and all of their competitors have been becoming increasingly popular and sophisticated, ebook sales have been picking-up. This is also fuelled by Apple’s iPad and the iBook store. Mashable‘s Pete Cashmore writes on CNN that Apple and its competitors (particularly Google) have already defeated the publishing industry. As he points out, publishers are at Apple’s mercy, allowing Apple to charge a 30% fee on every ebook that it sells without the publishers having any say over it at all. The only way Apple could be overcome is if Google’s new One Pass store, which charges 10%, starts out-competing Apple’s.
Reviewing Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century by John B. Thompson in the New York Review of Books, Jason Epstein sheds some light on how the publishing industry missed the boat on the digital revolution. He even notes, very humbly, that he originally conceived of the business model that could have saved them, but it was instead taken by other entities:
In the mid-80s I proposed to my collegues at Random House that we create a direct mail catalogue comprising 40,000 or so backlist titles selected from the list of all publishers, to be ordered by readers over a toll-free number. The internet had not then been commercialised but digitisation was in the wind and disintermediation had become a buzz word. I argued that with retailers increasingly unable to stock our backlist we should now sell our backlist to readers directly. I was, of course, proposing the opportunity that Amazon eventually seized.
…Early in the new century book publishers, confined within their history and outflanked by unencumbered digital innovators, missed yet another critical opportunity, seized once again by Amazon, this time to build their own universal digital catalog, serving e-book users directly and on their own terms while collecting the names, e-mail addresses, and preferences of their customers. This strategic error will have large consequences
Epstein paints a very bleak picture of the publishing industry, chronicling his 52 years as an editor at Random House. He notes how when he began his career, the editors were given free-reign to choose books for literature’s sake, then how this slowly morphed into what we have today. Small, urban booksellers gave way to commercialised chains, which gave way to the Borders, Barnes and Nobles and Dymooks that we see today. The great casualty in this process was the back catalogue, where the increasing commercialisation of the bookshop world, as a result of the increasing number of other forms of entertainment for books to compete with, led to a market dominated by recent bestsellers and a few best-selling authors, at the expense of past greats and smaller writers.
But it’s these competing media that are really the story here. As Chauncey Mabe says in the Open Page blog,
The problem with the way Epstein, Thompson and others analyze the digital revolution is one of perspective. They look at the ways technology is likely to affect books, but the real impact is in the way digital technology is going to alter people.
After all, how many people do you know who actually read whole books anymore? I made a new year’s resolution for 2011 to read at least 1 book every month; so far, I’m failing. There’s just too much other material out there.
Our generation may be the last to read books at school, have textbooks at uni and have to hand-write exams. Bookshelves are becoming decorative and nothing more. I’ve said this to people who reply “but I really like going to bookshops and I like holding something in my hand!” Sure you do, but do you like it enough to pay for the paper, printing, shipping, store rental and staff salaries that let you get there? For most people, probably not. And so ends the book, may it rest in peace.