Is the iPad an Evolutionary Product or a Revolutionary Product? Will It Revive the Print Publishing Industry or Turn Them into Zombie Business?

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The iPad is cool, almost as cool as the ACE Hotel. I really like this place and it is becoming the place to stay for me in NYC. Forget the W, it is so boring. They were running out of room on my last day of stay so they switched me to this special room with bunk bed. Very cool.


The question is whether the iPad is an evolutionary (jumbo iTouch or iPhone) or a truly revolutionary innovation that can transform industry? Compare to other eReaders, the iPad experience is many times better, not to mention it is an Apple product. Apple is not slowing down anytime. I think Apple will design a smaller iPad, or iPad junior with a 5 inch screen, may be this Christmas or early mid Feb, it will be priced under $400 targeted for those who use it as ebook reader and iTunes movie player. I think there is 80% chance this will happen. And then next summer iPad will get an upgrade. I will write about what it could be next week.

Can the iPad save the print publishing industry and in the process creating a value migration and pushing content to the bottom of the value chain? Can the iPad perform CPR for magazines or simply turning them into zombies (the living dead)? A side story. Even Steve Woznisk (Apple’s co-founder) had to wait in line for the iPad. An Apple engineer showed his iPad to Wozniak for 2 minutes just hours before the device went on sale on April 3. The engineer was later fired. Bazaar.

The iPad is both an evolutionary and revolutionary innovation, depending how you look at it. The user behavior is still emerging and I don’t think we truly understand where it is going. Apple has sold one million iPad in 28 days, comparing this with the 74 days that it took to sell a million iPhones. The naysayers are buying too. The iPad also violates many marketing and design rules. It does not have a targeted segment; people from all walks of life are buying and using them. It is also not design to do one thing really well, you can argue it is a media device, but in fact it has the potential to do a lot more. I think we should not narrowly see this as a media device. It is not a phone and does a lot more than what a phone can do due to its size and lack of permanence. We switch phones too often.

The print publishing industry has no clue of what to do. They are embracing the digital form as the inevitable future, but struggle to find a strong customer value proposition for their content beyond just being content, and fail to redefine what ‘value’ means to the digital readers. These are not your typical magazines subscribers who receive your magazine one or twice a month and read them.

A rethink is needed to look at the roles of physical magazines, digital magazines and service design. For me, I am buying way less books and magazines. 5 years ago, I subscribed to roughly 50 magazines and purchased 8-10 books a month. Yesterday, I’ve spent an hour at Barnes and Noble and realized there are so many garbage books out there that are not worth the trees killed and paper they are printed on. The problem is with the publishers. I have not seen many decent newly published book for a long time.

For all other ebook readers, with the exception of Amazon Kindle may be, no one can survive. They will all surely die. But there are no shortages of brave companies who want to take a shot at it. We all agree that we shouldn’t kill any more trees and the whole idea of carrying many books in a device is a great idea. Not to mention all my photos and music. For the music, it is a little funny when I used it on a plane just listening to music, and Nora Jones’ photo appeared on the screen like a digital photo frame. It feels like an overkill and I switched back to my little iTouch.

I think the book industry will be in big trouble soon. I don’t see any reason why I should continue to buy books, that is if I find a good one which is a bigger problem in the first place. The economics of book production doesn’t make sense today.

It is interesting to see how things play out as publishers and device/distribution negotiate their share of profits. In the book industry, there was a running joke that the second book published on the Gutenberg press was about the death of the publishing business. That’s funny. No matter where consumers buy their books, they expect digital media should cost less. And they should and will. Can publisher and writers still make money? Authors don’t make much these days and don’t have much to give up.

Have a great weekend.

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