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Apple to unveil the new Tablet on Jan 27. Will it be a publishing game-changer?

Fox News is reporting that Apple will show off their much-anticipated Tablet device (or iTablet as I like to call it) at a January 27th event in San Francisco. I, for one, can hardly wait.

It was nine years ago this month when Apple launched its iTunes application and marketplace, which in turn revolutionized the music landscape forever. Back then, who would have guessed that Apple, a hardware and software company, would come to represent the largest marketplace for digital music, with over six billion songs downloaded and over 220 million iPods sold? Now, in hindsight, it looks like a natural fit, where consumers benefit from the synergy of a music store and an integrated music player.

The big question on everyone’s mind now is whether Apple can have the same impact on a rapidly transitioning book publishing industry.

If Apple announces the Tablet and if they launch an ebook marketplace, then this will be another game-changer. Sure, Sony was the first mover in this market and the Kindle is the current market leader (with over 1.5M devices sold), but the ebook market–and the ebook/ereader industry as a whole–is still in its infancy. Ebook pricing is all over the map, consumer features aren’t fully fleshed out, ebook formats differ, and Digital Rights Management (DRM) varies widely (When I was at Lulu we struggled with DRM till we were blue in the face).

Even more important, the definition of a “book” is changing. In theory, digital devices can make it easier to manage and enjoy text, multimedia, and web-based applications all at the same time. As of now, however, no device manufacturer has created that perfect marriage of technology and content that enhances the book-reading consumer’s experience–nor are publishers embracing the creation of this type of content. Apple’s Tablet could be the answer to this problem.

I don’t know what the future will bring with the Tablet, but it’s also very possible that this device will provide significant opportunities for independent authors. In the same way that  iTunes enabled indie bands to easily distribute their music to the masses, an “iBooks” marketplace could be a wonderful solution for author-direct publishing and retail distribution. Bring it on, I say!

Whatever happens with this new product, it’ll be exciting to watch how consumers–and book lovers like you and me–respond. As I’ve said many times before on this blog, I love my Kindle, but right now I don’t see why I’d want anything more than a simple text-based black & white ereader. Furthermore, and although it can be convenient, I don’t really enjoy reading my Kindle ebooks on my iPhone for extended periods of time. The screen’s just a bit too small for me.

The Tablet, however, as an “iPhone on steroids” or as the ebook-reader of tomorrow, may be what I’ve all been waiting for all along. I just didn’t know it.

We’ll all know soon enough. It won’t be another Newton for sure (here’s more on that), but my main concern is that it may be too expensive. What do you think?

Lastly, what I do know is that Apple’s entry (and significant investment I’m sure) into ebooks will further legitimize the market. Whether you read them or not, ebooks are here to stay, and todays forward-thinking author should include ebooks as part of their overall publishing and marketing strategy.  The truth is that there’s never been a better time to be an author, and whether you’re publishing your fifth book or your first, or whether you’re publishing a print book or an ebook, these new technologies can help you get your book out the door quickly and efficiently. But keep in mind that publishing is now the easy part of a larger journey. Identifying, finding, influencing, growing, and, most importantly–selling to your audience–now that’s the hard part.

There’s no doubt that the traditional world of publishing is undergoing radical disruption, but don’t let these industry changes get in the way of your publishing dreams. Better yet, take advantage of them and make 2010 your most successful year yet!

Until next time, keep publishing–

Henry Hutton
PublishandSell.com
hhutton@publishandsell.com
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919-247-1832

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