Unless you've been on a media fast, you've heard that Apple has released a new mobile device called the iPad. When Steve Jobs made his keynote address at the launch, he opened with a quote from the Wall Street Journal that said something to the effect of "the last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, there were some commandments written on it."
Publishers certainly have been waiting with bated breath. The biggest media losers in the Internet age, the magazines and newspapers, hold some hope that the device will be their salvation. They've lost so many subscription and newsstand readers to free content on the Web, including free content on their own sites, that their very survival is tenuous. They hope the iPad will be a venue in which they can finally generate revenue from digital content delivery.
Though not on the same scale, book publishers also face ever-increasing competition in providing information and entertainment. The Kindle made a bit of a stir, since it held the potential to replace ink on paper for at least novels and other one-color books. Until now, though, no handheld device existed that gave the user a satisfactory experience in reading full-color books. The iPad holds that promise, and a major feature is its brand-new iBook store, the bookstore equivalent of iTunes.
Do I worry? Maybe I'm supposed to, but I don't. I want traditional books to survive, and I think they will. They've existed for centuries and hold an almost sacred place in our culture. However, I'm also tremendously excited about the possibilities of books that can hold video to show how-to content much more clearly and thoroughly than still illustrations or photos; books that can be interactively searchable, replacing the need for an index, which always seems to fall short, no matter how good it is; books that reduce the demand for unsustainably harvested paper and toxic inks; and so much more. I want to be a part of that, and I hope traditional book publishers across the spectrum don't cede these opportunities to new media publishers or (horrors!) new media divisions within their companies but rather embrace e-books as part of a holistic, integrated publishing program.
Alethea Morrison, Creative Director