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Apple talking to print for tablet books?

updated 09:05 am EDT, Wed September 30, 2009

Apple rumored putting text on iTunes

A second and potentially more significant rumor today claims that Apple has been courting publications with the aim of putting text on iTunes for the sake of its upcoming tablet. The iPhone creator has reportedly talked to the New York Times, an unnamed magazine publisher (possibly Conde Nast or similar) and textbook publishers McGraw Hill and Oberlin Press to bring their content formatted for the iTunes Store.

The tablet is the likely aim, but the publishers themselves may be interested in making the move, according to the Gizmodo contacts. Although the common perception is that textbook makers are normally resistant to digital editions as it would force the high prices of these books downwards, these print houses would reportedly be more willing to adopt it with a copy protection system that prevented resales. A "one-time use" system, presumably for the length of a college term, would let students use the book at a fraction of its normal paper cost but would help publishers by preventing campus bookstores from reselling books and cutting off many future sales.

Apple would at least initially just port text in a basic format but might eventually take advantage of its media expertise to add audio, video, and manipulated graphics to books to make "living" documents much like websites, but in a self-contained and protected format.

Little is spoiled regarding the tablet hardware in the leak, but an introduction sometime in January has supposedly been confirmed by a source at a "high level."

A major push towards books, magazines and newspapers would contradict Steve Jobs' well-known criticisms of the Amazon Kindle, as he has argued that too few people read. However, the Apple chief has lately softened his stance and argued that the main flaw of the Kindle and other e-book readers is their single-purpose nature rather than their existence in the first place. Jobs has also been known to use comments as a feint by arguing against developing a particular product or feature only to introduce what he believes is a superior product later that thwarts competitors; notably, he decried video on portable media players in 2004 only to add it as a feature a year later.

by MacNN Staff



  1. danviento

    Joined: Dec 1969


    One Term?

    I don't know about you, but the reference books I used for almost half of the classes in my major still sit on my shelf at home and still are a good reference a few times a year. The term-limit system described here sounds very much like the subscription service Apple has avoided like the plague. People want to own their media, be it music, movies, or the written word. Oh wait, magazines, the newspaper, online news...

    It's a hard line to draw, to be sure, between the uses of subscription and ownership. I'm surprised there really hasn't been more word on a subscription period of your entire time in higher education. That would suit some students much better than a term.

  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    A no-brainer for Apple...

    This type of media not being available for previous tablets were most likely the reason why they failed. Apple must absolutely continue getting all sorts of content on the iTunes Store that no other computer companies can get. Reference textbooks would certainly be useful to have on a tablet. I wouldn't doubt that some people keep those books, but many students I knew would resell their reference books when finished with them.

    A tablet that can deliver a multimedia document would be very helpful for students. Embedded audio and animations would put a standard book to shame. I feel certain there are many advantages a tablet could offer students over standard books. I'm not against paper books by any means and I think standard libraries should always remain, but books in digital form should also be offered for the masses.

    Apple has to grab as much digital content as possible to keep driving tablet sales. Then it won't matter how good a competitor designs their tablets or how cheap they are. Apple will have a total solution that will keep them ahead of the tablet industry.

    Students could have a subscription service that also offers an option to buy if they wanted to keep their reference books. I'm guessing this stuff would be delivered in the form of .pdf or some new type of format file.

  1. Gozerthegozarian

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I know I am a typical Luddite old f***.

    I will probably buy one of these things one day. I can see buying electronic editions to enable the copying and pasting of text.

    But I love printed books because Amazon-Google-Apple-can't erase them from your device or cloud storage without notice.

    I love printed books because they last a literal lifetime.

    I love printed books for the same reasons I loved vinyl album art. The lyrics were big enough to read... many of the covers were real pieces of art - or at least frozen moments of pop culture.

    I love printed books because they are heavy and take up a lot of space. Since it often still makes sense to go to a local store to buy them, you run into other people at Barnes & Noble who love, or sometimes more interestingly, hate the books you do. The analog-ness, the heaviness, and physicality of printed books brings people together.

    I never go to Blockbuster anymore to rent videos - I miss overhearing... actually eavesdropping on people discussing their choice of movies.

    I suppose I also love printed books because my father loved printed books.

    I love computers, technology, and modernity (sort of).

    Apple's eventual tablet will undoubtedly be cool, useful, and a big seller. Still, I cant stop thinking that in the bigger picture we are watching the beginning of the end of something beautiful.

  1. ionlyuseosx

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Cost and Publishing Subscriptions

    What is this device going to cost including the wireless data plan? I'm sure it will be marketed to be a lot less costly than purchasing text books which I assume will be the biggest attraction for education customers. Will the wireless service be including with the up front price like the Kindle?

    I see the Apple iTablet as the next revolution in publishing like the iPhone was to mobile devices. Media outlets have been waiting a long time for a device like this to be released so they can sell their own publication subscriptions.

    Think of all the trees this is going to save!!!

  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Another ebook island

    Oh great, ebooks are already troubled by little islands of distribution. Publishers need to put it a book in one format for Amazon and another for Sony, hand distributing files to each. Now Apple wants to create yet another distribution island for their gadget. What format will it use and will publishing via it be as messy for publishers as releasing apps through iTunes?

    The sad fact is that ebooks will get nowhere until all these islands of distribution come to an end. With printed books, there is a coherent distribution system and copies from one source are identical to those from another. That makes it easy for customers to find books and the competition keeps prices down. None of that exists for ebooks. Amazon may sell an ebook that Sony doesn't have and vice-versa. One version may look great, another awful and you don't know until you buy. And that's not even getting into the mess that DRM creates for ebooks.

  1. nat

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I've read several digital books and subscribe to exacteditions .com (velo vision).
    I like that I get all back issues and all future issues for a yearly price.
    Zinio on the other hand wants you to pay yearly but appears to charge for back additions (prior to first subscription I think, haven't signed up yet).
    Both seem to duplicate the printed though just playing with Zinio I'm not that crazy about the navigation.
    As long as they don't go away and I have access to the back editions then I could see text books doing something similar. I would not want to lose the books after use though. Just the other day I was looking up something in my old college physics book. I want that.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Since one of the big complaints of the Kindle is how it won't fit in your pocket, is Apple expecting people to be carrying one of these things around to read?

    And will Apple then be deciding which books we can add to our device?

  1. nat

    Joined: Dec 1969



    since no none knows what this thing is or looks like, what is your point?

    since apple is in talks with print and no one knows what the outcome will be, what is your point?

    just some general wah wah'ing about apple again. nothing to add to this discussion at all.

  1. appleuzr

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I see you are up to your normal picking and choosing of your battles. Why not go over to the Ballmer statement thread and post your anti-apple nonsense there? Oh wait, that's an argument you can't win, well and it's hard to say anything negative about your fellow but pirate. How many days a week does Ballmer stop by after work and give it to you up the p*** hole? All of us here know you're on the receiving end of that relationship as well as being the b**** and not the butch.

  1. tvalleau

    Joined: Dec 1969


    of course...

    that's why I've not bought a Kindle or Sony ebook reader yet. Apple's is only around the corner.

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