So, I’m writing this blog post while flying on Virgin Atlantic, going to London for a week. Given that I’m flying from San Francisco, it is going to take 10 hours to reach my destination, so I was thinking of how I was going to keep myself busy, especially since there is no wifi access on my flight. The answer was to read for most of the time, so I went into one of the stores in the airport and bought 4 magazines to keep me occupied. I spent at least $20 on these magazines (unlike Sara Palin, I will list what I read 🙂 Fortune, GQ, The Economist, Entrepreneur). I started reading an interesting article by Fortune called “The Future of Reading” (Josh Quittner, March 2010), talking about how and if, the tablet, specifically the iPad will change journalism.
In the Fortune article, Marc Andreessen, a well-known entrepreneur and investor is quoted “…to think tablets will essentially be the new newspaper or the new book or the new magazine, and that all the economic for the newspapers, magazines, and books will carry forward on the tablet, is really dangerous.” To a certain degree, I disagree with him and believe the tablet is a step in becoming the new form of consuming books/magazines. There are several startups (Nanolumens) that are creating really cool flexible/bendable screens and I suspect that in a few years will enable tablets to have a flexible screens, which will bring it one step close to feeling like a magazine.
I’m not an Apple fan boy, but in our household, we have at least 5 Apple devices….maybe I’m an Apple nut, but I really wouldn’t describe myself as one (Steve Jobs in not my god). In any case, I’ve been thinking about the Apple iPad that is coming out in March/April 2010 and whether it is a device that will be a “game changer”. For the last few weeks, I’ve down played the importance of the iPad, but as I spend more time thinking about it, I’m starting to realize that is going to be a huge disruption for several reasons.
While there are several readers (Kindle) and many other tablets in the marketplace, none of them have had the proper mix of features to really take off. Here is what I’m looking for as a consumer in regards to a digital reader or tablet:
1) has to be affordable, needs to be in the $300 range
2) has to be very light, equal to the weight of several magazines or books
3) needs to be able to download magazines and books via wifi
4) actual battery life needs to be at least 12+ hours, preferably 24+ hours
5) touch screen with full color is must
6) purchasing the content needs to be one-click, so my financial info (credit card) needs to be stored
So with those parameters, the Apple iPad is the closest device to fulfilling my needs. My concern with the iPad is battery life (10 hours) and the cost (starts at $499). Once I see the iPad in person and speak with several people who own the device, I will make a decision as to whether I buy it or not.
I do believe the iPad will change the market for book/magazine publishers, here is why:
1) the Apple App Store already has many consumers credit card information and allows them do buy digital media instantly. This is a critical point, as destination sites have a lot of difficulty building trust with consumers regarding their credit card information
2) the App Store doesn’t control the market of supply and demand, meaning that consumer and publishers will decide what the value of content should be. I just spent $20 on magazines that I will likely throw away at the end of the trip, even though I could benefit from referring back to the content from time to time. I would prefer to spend $20 on content that I can access at any time. In addition, the publishers can continue to have a good margin, as there are no printing costs or retail marks ups. Sure, the App Store will get their piece of the pie, but could be win-win for publishers and Apple
3) the combination of touch screen and HD quality screen, will allow the iPad to closely resemble the physical action of flipping through a magazine of book. This is an area that the Kindle has not addressed yet.
4) advertising will be in full color and will be very interactive. If you are a smart advertiser, you know that many magazine publishers currently inflate subscription numbers and there is zero visibility into how many readers are actually looking at your ad. The iPad will provide the analytics that smart advertisers are looking for
Some of the counter arguments that I’ve heard are:
1) If the iPad is connected to the web, where a lot of content is free, why would I pay for it? The answer is simple I believe, if the application (app) that is created closely resembles the look and feel of a magazine, consumers will pay for it. If you haven’t seen what the Sports Illustrated would look like on the iPad check this video out.
2) Why do I want to carry another device? The point is addressed with one of the comment above; if the product is light, people will carry them, especially when traveling. The Kindle has shown that consumers will carry another device. The other related question is battery life and the Kindle does a great job with this as a charge can last a week. The battery life for the iPad is a big question mark for me as well.
Would love to hear your comments and thoughts on this. Twitter: @shaig