The impending release of the Apple iPad and the restructuring of the pricing system for e-books will change the game, and publishers, authors, and consumers will need to adjust in the new digital publishing world.
Impact of the iPad
When the iPad lands in the hands of consumers in the Spring of 2010, the publishing market will change overnight. By all accounts, the full-color iPad will be an upgrade over the black-and-white Amazon Kindle, its closest competitor, as well as the Sony eReader, and the Barnes and Noble Nook. Apple’s iPad, essentially a larger version of the iPod Touch, will retail for as low as $499, and its iBook application will place customers clicks away from a virtual bookstore. Additionally, Apple has already pushed for new e-book prices, a move welcomed by publishers who have complained about Amazon’s $9.99 e-book price for some time.
Publishers Come Aboard
There is no longer any question about the lasting appeal of digital publishing. Publishers who are not planning for dual programs in print and electronic publishing will be left behind by those that do. The new price deals with Apple, which will make e-books slightly more expensive to consumers and therefore slightly more profitable for publishers, should make the decision to jump into e-publishing a lot easier for publishers. And the benefits for publishers are very real. E-books eliminate expensive printing and warehousing costs, and supply problems (such as out of print books) simply do not exist.
The Changing Role of Authors
In the past, the path to success for authors was usually via a publishing house. However, authors that embrace digital publishing will largely be able to control their own path. Authors now have the option to turn to electronic self-publishing. And this isn’t a bad thing. Because the same cost-saving advantages of e-publishing exist for authors as they do for publishers, authors can write and self-publish electronically at low costs. Authors will be able to control their work and their profits to a degree that didn’t exist just a short time ago.
Where Does This Leave Consumers?
Ultimately, the big winner in the coming digital publishing world will be the consumer. True, the cost of an e-reader is fairly expensive at the moment, which creates a very real barrier between publishers and its customers. However, it is very likely that the prices of e-readers will begin to drop due to heavy competition. The $499 price for the iPad, which many thought would be considerably higher, is a good indication that prices should begin to drop in an effort to entice more buyers. Once customers have an e-reader, they’ll have immediate access to a full range of titles at low costs, even with the eventual price change from the current Kindle standard of $9.99.
What It All Means
In the end, the impact of digital publishing and how publishers respond to it will be guided by consumers. If people want to read e-books, they’ll cast their votes by spending their dollars. Publishers will be forced to respond to the demand if they want to stay in business.