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.