I recently heard of a fellow in Boston, a friend of a colleague, who was an early adopter of Amazon’s Kindle e-reader [pictured]. When he first bought his Kindle, he was eager to show it off, frequently bringing it to coffee houses to bask in the glow of adulation from curious onlookers.
Then came the iPad.
This gentleman now does his Kindle reading in the privacy of his home, embarrassed to bring his relic out in public. He has what I call "Kindle Shame."
The iPad, like many Apple product introductions, has made lunatics out of many of us. It has also created an extraordinary opportunity for publishers, because the iPad widens the definition of eReader exponentially. People who couldn’t justify the cost of a traditional eReader will pay more for an iPad because it’s multi-purpose – it’s not just an eReader, but for many users it also functions as a wi-fi-enabled laptop.
It also sets a new bar for publishers. In some ways it’s a higher bar, because of its touchscreen interface. And in some ways, many would say, it’s a lower bar because of Apple’s unwillingness to support Flash-based publications.
Either way, the iPad has created a quandary for publishers, many of whom are desperate to get their content onto the iPad, and fast. Unless they are satisfied to present their content in a simple, non-Flash web based publication (only accessible where wi-fi is available), the iPad requires publishers to create a new iPad-specific digital format. And it also requires them to create an App.
At a high level, there are two options: create your own App (or outsource creation of one), or pursue a newsstand model. Creating your own App may require a higher up-front cost, but enables you to maintain control of your brand and leverage the popularity of the App Store and reach billions of potential global readers. This model is the most intuitive for readers who are looking for your content (they just search for Folio, for instance, at the App Store). Pursuing a newsstand model, where your publication is posted at an online newsstand and readers use that newsstand’s App to access it, may lower your up-front costs, but in the long term you sacrifice control of your brand and potentially revenue due to exclusion of your title from the App store
Of course there are other variables to consider – too many to cover here. But please, whichever strategy you choose, make sure the process is repeatable. Many of the very first magazines available on the iPad were introduced with great fanfare and bells and whistles – but they were custom, one-time Apps. Except for the most cash-rich publishers (is that an oxymoron?), this is not a sustainable model. You don’t want to have to start from scratch developing iPad Apps for every new edition of your publication. You wouldn’t re-design every print edition from scratch, would you?
One other consideration as you evaluate your options: Ideally, the approach you select would be extendible to other eReader platforms as well, so you don’t have to deal with multiple vendors. You might even consider creating a version for the Kindle, although much of that reading might take place in private these days.