Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Jan 11 - Books & Browsing

I’ve been wanting to write something about the iPad for some time now, but figured I’d wait until the dust settled on its much hyped launch before doing so.

There’s been plenty of blog coverage on Apple’s tablet device, both good and bad, but I won’t bore you with the obvious.

Anyway, last weekend my wife and I were enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon in South Melbourne. It was her turn to choose the book for her bookclub, so we went into a bookshop.

As is often the case, she couldn’t decide between several of the books that had caught her eye. So she spoke to the lady behind the counter, who was very happy to help her.

The shop assistant’s help was, I believe, an excellent example of customer service. But more than that, this was a person with a genuine love for the product she sold.

Suffice to say, my wife walked out the shop with not one, but three books.

Meanwhile I took some photos of the store, as I felt it had a wonderful ambience, which I shared on Twitter.

You’re probably wondering by now what on earth all this has to do with the iPad. Very little to be honest, but my experience in that bookshop was very reminiscent of the teenage years I spent in record shops.

And record shops, as I’m sure you’re aware, are disappearing rapidly, mostly as a result of the internet, which has made music as easy to get as a couple of mouse clicks.

Much of the talk about the iPad has centred around it doing to magazines and books what the iPod and MP3 did to CDs and records.

I for one hope it doesn’t.

The demise of physical reading material may well eventuate, but I think it will take a lot longer than music. Basically because of pricing.

When you buy an album from iTunes, it costs less than a CD does, because there is no CD or CD packaging involved in the cost.

The price of a book is, give or take a dollar or two, roughly the same as a digital version. Which is fine if all you want is a book to read. But in my experience there’s so much more to books than reading.

Which makes me think that books will follow the lead of the music industry and offer well priced digital versions or more expensive collectors or special editions.

When it comes to magazines however, things get a little trickier.

Many publishers are creating magazine applications for the iPad. These generally feature extra content, video, access to lots more photos and more.

As you can imagine, this doesn’t come cheap.

Writing on his blog, David Hepworth from The Word, a UK based magazine, said,
“Every magazine publisher at the moment is faced by a new problem, do you or do you not invest in a version of your magazine for the iPad?”

His favourite magazine, The New Yorker, has recently launched an iPad application.

“They're inviting subscribers like me,” said Hepworth, “to pay another $5 a week to get a version of the magazine for a tablet. I don't think I'm the only one who thinks that's a bit much.”

If my experience with the iPad app of a well known magazine is anything to go by, I’d say Hepworth is definitely on to something.

The app I downloaded cost $8, which I thought was good value. But if I buy it every month, then it will end up costing me close to $100 a year. Not to mention the impact on my broadband usage, as the app is around 600mb in size.

The print magazine however is available on a one year subscription, delivered to my door for around half the cost of the iPad version.

Once publishers solve that problem, I suspect print copies of magazines will diminish. As for books, guess we’ll have to wait and see.


David Hepworth

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