barjin Tim Bajarin at PC Magazine sees in the iPad a potential blessing for publishers, but also a potential curse. The blessing is, of course, the new multimedia content delivery system.

However, the curse is that “[the] iPad could give rise to a new creative self-publishing crowd that could, in turn, become competition for the established publishing industry.”

Bajarin points to the original launch of the iPhone SDK. Even though all the product demos shown at launch were from professional game and software design companies, when the SDK was actually released “small houses and individual programmers delivered the first round of best selling games before the big companies got their products to market.”

And with the iPad, Bajarin thinks, creative writers could do the same thing: make their own e-book apps and bypass publishers altogether. (I can already hear our publishing-industry readers cringing.)

One problem with Barjin’s line of reasoning is that it casts books as functionally equivalent to games. But it’s a lot harder to make a bad, or at least uncompelling, game than it is to write a bad book. Games, after all, have to function to some extent, but books don’t even have to be spell-checked.

People have been predicting the rise of self-publishing with each new technological innovation that comes along—the Internet, self-publishing, the iPhone, now the iPad. But though self-publishing has gotten easier and more fruitful, the great publishing sea change hasn’t happened yet. Self-published books have a bad reputation that independent games just don’t have, and that is not something that can be shaken off with a shiny new platform.

Also, Bajarin does not seem to realize that people already have been creating e-book apps, bypassing publishing houses, for the iPhone. I found out about Henry Melton’s work that way, in fact; his was one of the first non-public-domain appbooks in the iPhone store.

However, now there are literally thousands of appbooks, including public domain titles, bestsellers, self-published books, and even untranslated manga. Barring a major revision in the e-book category, any new book apps will be lost in the shuffle as soon as they are released. There is no reason to expect a bigger screen to change any of this.


  1. Fresh from the “Oh, please!” department.

    He may know Apple, but he’s so far behind the e-book times that it’s laughable. It’s all played out before, and Apple’s sudden appearance with a device that isn’t designed for, but can also read e-books, isn’t going to change that.

  2. What the iPad may do is give additional impetus to the growth of ebooks into a commercially viable format. At the moment, they’re maybe 5% of the total, which is HUGE compared to what they were a couple of years ago. That’s about a third of what I think they need to be before they’re really important to the industry.

    Self-publishing is already relatively easy and cheap in either ebooks or POD printed books (if you avoid the trap of the so-called POD publishers, that is, and actually go to a PRINTER).

    I see no need for apps, though. Who really wants them to be much larger than necessary, and stored in amongst your games, etc. If you’re a serious reader, you’re going to have hundreds, if not thousands, of them very quickly.

    And last, but not least: there’s enough of a difference between what a publisher can do for an author, and what most writers can do for themselves, that publishers are not now, and I very much doubt they ever will be, threatened by self-publishers.

  3. This is a ridiculous post, by someone who clearly does not have a clue about ebooks and ereading. Amazon’s self-publishing wing (Digital Text platform) is an ideal place to put out a books for minimal cost and get 70% of the revenue. Great deal. Even better is that Amazon is loaded with customers WHO READ BOOKS- AND BUY THEM. This will NOT be true of the iPad.

    As I have posted on other threads/posts, my prediction is that if a survey is done a year from now of all iPad owners, you will find that they spend no more than 10% of their time on the iPad reading books. So, if they are not reading books on it, they will not buy books for it. (Newspapers and comic books can be very successful on the iPad.)

    Therefore, self-publishing for the iPad at the iBookstore is NOT going to happen. At Amazon- YES! But not at Apple.

  4. Interesting ideas, but I suspect that publishing on ePub platforms like the iPad won’t really take off until the horse-and-buggy stage is past.

    Most buggies were pretty miserable places to be in bad weather. Unless you were rich enough to afford a team of horses, they had to be light enough to be pulled, uphill and down, by a single horse. The first cars were like buggies. They were light and uncomfortable. Only later did automakers realize that the engines were powerful enough to move about a sealed steel cab that kept out the weather. The modern car was born.

    Ebooks are still buggies–in fact most are less appealing than a well-laid out, black-and-white book. EPub may be a standard, but it is a primitive one, and there are no good applications to create good-looking ePub books. InDesign, so amazing for creating printed books, becomes clumsy when exporting to ePub.

    I might add that doing ebooks right probably doesn’t mean mixing medias, adding a bit of video here and some music there. (Think not of Frankenstein with spooky music that plays in the spooky parts.) The idea of mixing itself may not work in most cases and the cost of video is far beyond the resources of most authors and publishers. No, it’ll mean the effective use of subtle color tints, numerous subheadings and graphics where appropriate, taking care not to overwhelm the story itself. A better book is still a book.

    The iPad and similar devices certainly provide a tool to display the result, but the revolution won’t begin until:

    1. People realize that these new devices are not books mixed in some higgly-piggly fashion with TVs. They’re something else entirely, something we will have to discover.

    2. Writers, editors and publishers have to tools to create this “something else” without a lot of klutzing with hand-coded XHTML. And by that I mean tools that are like Apple’s iWork suite rather than Microsoft’s Office suite. We need tools that create ebooks that look attractive almost by default.

  5. It’s time to revisit your article, it’s iPad launch day. Apple announced iTunes will import and sync EPUB files with iPad.

    I was inspired, so I used this tool:

    …to create my first EPUB:

    It’s going to be great for technical documentation at work. User friendly tools will appear for converting any existing document to EPUB. It’s going to be great for businesses and authors alike.

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