Can the iPad save publishing?

The children of the digital age will grow up without film in their cameras, without albums on CD, without DVD collections and without paper. Hands up


Hands up if you agreed with the first three, but decided you couldn’t live in a paper-free world. Congratualations! You’re in the majority.


We want to be able to swat flies with a newspaper, dog-ear the pages of a novel and read magazines on the loo.


More than that, we’ve lived with printed bits of paper for a long time – scriptures and newspapers changed the course of history – so we’re emotionally attached, too.


“But I just like the feel of holding a paper/book/magazine.”


Tough. The internet has made it harder for media that need to be physically printed and distributed to keep up, and that’s a one-way trend.


Publishing, on paper, is in decline, even if print is a more resilient format than most. Consider the fall of tape to CD or VHS to DVD. Quick, wasn’t it?


Now all physical formats are being just as speedily usurped by digital files.


So can the iPad do for digital publishing what the iPod did for music?


The New York Times app demoed at the launch event had some fun tricks like embedding video content in stories, but if that’s the full reach of digital publishing we’re in trouble.


Then again, the NYT only had a few weeks to develop their brief demo. And, besides, it’s hardly at the vanguard of publishing design. If publishers can exploit the iPad’s gorgeous screen properly, we could see a sea change in the way people consume magazines and newspapers.

As an ereader, the iPad’s flickering colour screen is unlikely to win over many serious bookworms, even if it is the best-looking reading device. On the other hand, it has millions of pre-registered users for its iBooks store, a tried-and-tested selling environment and big industry buying power.


Single-handedly transforming an industry with one device is a big ask, but Apple has done it before. Twice.


Don’t bet against the iPad scoring Apple’s hat-trick.