Nieman Journalism blogger Martin Langeveld posts a whitepaper currently being presented at a journalism conference at the University of Missouri in Columbia. The whitepaper reflects on the ways that the iPad will change the face of publishing.

Langeveld writes:

iPad is not a linear, incremental development. It’s not a simple next step after everything that has preceded it (even iPhone); it’s a new direction that will have unpredictable impacts on digital behavior.

He then proceeds to…predict these “unpredictable impacts”.

They include a substantial increase in mobile shopping, as the iPad provides a much better display medium than a smaller-sized smartphone screen, and a decline in print and “insert” advertising as ads move increasingly to the mobile web. It is even possible that mail-order catalogs will stop being shipped by post, as the iPad and tablets like it end up as “coffee table” devices.

Langeveld lays out a list of assumptions for publishers to make, and strategies to pursue, based on this idea. Papers should “reinvent content for the mobile Web and iPad,” and journalists should “develop new streams of content, in new formats and with new kinds of interactivity and connectivity.”

In some ways this reminds me of the “burn your boats” advice from Marc Andreesen that I covered the other day. Langeveld seems to be saying that the iPad is going to bring a sea change in the way things are done, and you must adapt or get swept away.

On the one hand, I’m not sure I buy it. It seems a little early to start predicting The End Of The World As We Know It before the device even hits store shelves. On the other hand, prognostication is an important part of doing business, so if you don’t try to predict what’s coming you might end up getting left behind.


  1. The iPad is merely the hardware, likely to be followed by similar products from others. That’s not enough for a revolution. What’s still needed is an ebook standard that’d allow ebooks to look as good as an iPad or a high-quality color print book are capable of displaying. It must include new features that printed books can’t have, such as links and pop-up notes. It also must be able to do what print books can already do–allow highlighting and on-page note taking, particularly for textbooks. Finally, we need a distribution system that means that when you buy a book, it’s yours for life without a lot of hassle moving it between devices and platforms.

    Except for PDF, which can’t adapt well to different screen sizes, current ebook standards are as wimpy as HTML was in the early 1990s. They are good enough for novels, but woefully inadequate for anything else. And for that, blame the entire industry, which is too obsessed with proprietary solutions (Amazon and Sony) and too stuck on DRM (everyone in the industry) to think straight about what is needed.

    Adobe, which might actually be doing something useful, is too eager to please a clueless industry to lead like they did with PDF. Apple might be able to do something, expanding the ePub standard, keeping it open, and creating software to create books in that new standard. But I see no evidence they are interested in doing that.

    Along with a powerful ebook format, we need applications that make creating high-quality ebooks at least as easy as with InDesign. No coding with XML or CSS required. No kludgy workarounds and restrictions like creating ePub with the current version of InDesign. Real tools that really work for ordinary people.

    Until that happens, the ebook market is likely to be dominated by here-today-gone-tomorrow thrillers and cheap romance novels.

  2. It is surprising that Apple came so late into the game considering its pioneering efforts in desktop publishing many years back. The combination of Mac hardware, laser-printer and third-party software like PageMaker created a new industry.

    I am not sure if Apple will care to repeat that effort. I would more likely bank on Adobe on taking the lead here.

    The current dedicated ebook readers are seriously under-powered to support the type of content you described. Under-powered to even support full range of CSS properties the epub format will eventually need to support. But that will change.

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