As we approach what we assume will be the launch day of the long-rumored Apple Tablet, there have been rumors that Apple is in talks with print media publishers over bringing their content to the device. This makes one wonder if there is some odd twist of fate that the hottest new digital device might actually be the savior of the old guard of print media.
The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reported the other day that sources had confirmed that Apple and HarperCollins are in talks to bring content from the publisher to the new device. Brian Murray, the chief executive of HarperCollins, has said that he envisioned a day where e-books that were enhanced with video, author interviews and social-networking applications could demand a higher dollar amount from consumers, and if the rumors of what the Apple Tablet can do are true, it would easily handle all of those functions.
How does this “save” print media though? When I recently interviewed Paul Greenberg, Executive Vice President & General Manager of TVGuide.com, he said one of the things that had helped grow the popularity of the aging brand was by making the site “an immersive experience.” Imagine if this same idea was carried over to e-books that are far more than just text on a screen like you get with the Kindle and the Nook. What if you could have almost DVD-like commentaries where there would be an icon next to some text that you would click, and the author would appear in a pop-up window and discuss why they made a certain decision at this juncture of the book. What if a song plays an integral part to a story, and you could click a box and the song would start playing as you read the passage? Sure they may no longer be “books” in the traditional sense at this point, but if they keep the consumer buying, why not?
If you think this is all ‘pie-in-the-sky’ dreaming, look at what Condé Nast has done with GQ magazine in the iTunes store already. All Things D reported that in a trial run of selling the mainstay of mens lifestyle magazines to iPod Touch and iPhone owners, they sold 6,614 copies of the December issue, and 12,000 copies of the January issue. If you imagine those numbers selling on a 3.5-inch screen, just think what could be possible on a 10-inch screen.
One of the most interesting possibilities to me is the idea of getting a magazine no matter where you are. We have become a society of instant gratification, and buying a magazine means going to a magazine rack somewhere to make the purchase. Now, imagine you are stuck in a doctor’s office or the car, and the Apple Tablet has the wireless connectivity it is rumored to have, and you could just whip out the tablet and download the latest issue of your favorite magazine. You couldn’t get much faster instant gratification than that, and that alone could increase sales of the long suffering magazine industry.
None of this is to say that the Apple Tablet will be some sort of magic bullet that will fix all of the ills of the print media business, but it could quite possibly open many new avenues to them to help stabilize them financially while they explore other ways of correcting their problems from years of falling sales.