Publishers such as Condé Nast, masters of our beloved Wired magazine, are so hopeful the iPad and the tablets chasing it will revive their economic health: you know, more readers will pay for subscriptions; no paper means lower operating costs; advertisers will suddenly yearn for higher CPMs to get aboard such gorgeous, interactive content …
Yet perhaps Apple has deeper motives for the iPad, say, moving the margins of the book and magazine industries directly into its own pockets. (See: iTunes, the No. 1 music vendor in the United States.) Here’s how Apple could destroy publishing in five easy steps:
1. Launch the iPad, then gradually reduce price points while adding features (webcams, backside video cams, slimmer bezels, 3-D) until ramping gadget sales achieve lock-in for Apple as the de facto tablet-cum-publishing store in the world.
2. Upgrade the Apple word processing program Pages to include simple templates for books, novels, pamphlets, and magazines, all publishable electronically as gorgeous interactive PDFs. And just as an iTunes software version exists for Windows, promote a version of Pages to work in Microsoft environments as well.
3. Give consumers new incentives to publish books or magazines themselves by including interactive ads that fit in the margins of their self-published PDFs. You’ll get paid for every thousand eyeballs reading your stuff, and advertisers will compete for this new form of contextual advertising tied to GPS location systems built into the iPad.
4. With a click, allow these aspiring authors to upload their now-beautiful, already monetized book layouts to the iBookstore.
5. Build in social media features to help you promote your own book to your network of followers on Twitter and Facebook, and pray that they scale it to their friends.
You may not sell a million books or a best-selling magazine, but you’ll no longer need all that thorny pitching, rejection, approval, editing, and self-whoring that comes from working with big publishing houses. Don’t look at us. Chris Anderson called his own book “Free.”