Over the past few weeks, there has been plenty of buzz about how an Apple tablet would be print's savior, and how Apple would revolutionize the way we read. Now that the iPad has been introduced it's clear to me that the iPad takes this vision of a revolutionary way of presenting news only halfway.
A Potentially Good E-reader
Apple thinks the iPad makes a great e-reader. And looking at the video and photos from the announcement event, it very well could be--for books, at least. It certainly looks beautiful, though it has yet to be determined whether or not it's as easy on the eyes as an e-ink display, and it's a bit heavier than typical e-readers.
Also, unlike the Kindle, it doesn't appear as if the iBooks reader app and store is set up for periodicals.The iBooks Store wasn't up and running when we had hands-on time with the iPad, but there was no indication that it'll support newspapers or magazines.
Apps from Publications Have Potential
There's also plenty of potential for newpaper and magazine publishers to distribute their content via specialized iPad apps. There could be, for example, a Sports Illustrated app that pushes a digital version of the latest issue to your iPad.
During the presentation, Steve Jobs demonstrated an iPad app version of the New York Times. Much like the Times Reader desktop app, it looked more like a newspaper than a Web page does, and even featured video playback from the app itself.
But this could be just the tip of the iceberg. Once publications see the possibilities here, we could see some really unique, new ways of presenting news and information.
What's Missing: The Periodical Store
The one thing missing, though, is a central repository and distribution model for periodicals. While publications can put out apps for their content, as I mention above, there's no one-stop shop for them on the iPad, where you can subscribe to any publication or download individual issues.
Imagine, if you will, something similar to the iBooks store or iTunes store, where you could subscribe to any and all magazines or newspapers that you want. When a new issue is available, you'd get a notification, and you could then download it to your iBooks library.
Last night, Wired posted a story about how the iTunes LP format and HTML5 could be used for this sort of thing. The iTunes LP format currently used for some music albums is a natrual fit for electronic editions of magazines. It could handle text, video, photos, and audio. It could work on an iPad or any Mac or PC with iTunes installed. You'd get something that's way more interactive and interesting than what a typical e-reader is. Instantly, old media wouldn't look so old.
If Apple can work out a Periodical Store, it would could do for newspapers and magazines what the iPod and iTunes did for music. Without this, part, though, it's up to the publishers to make it work. I think it's still possible that we'll see this sort of thing. Hopefully it's just a matter of Apple negotiating with magazine and newspaper publishers.