Can Apple save the written word?

Newspapers and magazines hope new computer will do for them what the iPod did for the music industry

Nowhere is next week's launch by Apple of its new tablet device more breathlessly awaited than in the executive offices of traditional publishing houses. For the tablet – or the iSlate or the iPad as it may become known – is regarded as a possible saviour for newspapers, magazines and textbooks.

There are electronic reading devices in existence already, such as Sony's e-Reader and Amazon's Kindle. But, publishers hope the unquestioned design talents of Apple will ensure that its latest product is the vehicle that enables them to transform their business models. After all, the iPod has converted millions to the idea of paying to download songs and, to a degree, has revived the music industry, becoming the world's largest music retailer in the process. The iPhone has created a culture of acquiring apps for "just about anything", many of them paid for.

Newspaper content is already being widely consumed on smart mobile phones but mostly for free. With a touch screen of 10-11 inches, the Apple tablet presents publishers of all kinds with the opportunity to create an entirely new reader experience, one that consumers might be persuaded to pay for.

David Rowan, editor of the UK edition of the technology magazine Wired, said that the size of the tablet screen could mean that readers enjoyed a "comparable experience" to reading a magazine. Innovative publishers would be offered myriad opportunities, such as accompanying an article on a film director with video footage, or a recipe piece with touch screen links to ingredients.

But he warned against the idea of thinking that the tablet would replace glossy magazines. "The reason there is a buzz of excitement in the publishing industry is that it has been a very scary 18 months for a lot of existing big media companies and people are looking for a golden solution," he said. "I don't think it will be that but it's an opportunity for innovative companies to find extra ways of building an audience."

One obstacle with the Apple tablet may be price – likely to be $1,000 in the US or £1,000 in Britain, including VAT. Then there is portability. Many consumers are very happy with the petite nature of a smart phone, having paid out for a Google Android or an iPhone. "Am I going to want to carry a delicate, solid, 10-inch screen?" wondered Rowan. "I don't see that many people with Kindles and eReaders when I'm out and about."

Neil Robinson, digital director at IPC Media, agreed there was a hope that Apple would unveil a device with a user interface of revolutionary design. "Arguably Apple offers us the best opportunity so far for an interactive device," he said. "Hopefully it will be quite a significant step forward." He said publishers needed such a device to provide an attractive platform for advertisers, who have been reluctant to take their business to magazine websites.

In reality, Apple needs the publishers – and their journalism – as much as they need it. Taiwanese company Micro-Star launched a tablet two years ago which failed partly because it carried insufficient access to content. Jobs and his team are in talks with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, the New York Times Co. and magazine publishers such as Conde Nast and television networks including CBS and Disney.

The New York Times this week announced that it would be demanding payment for access to its website and industry observers say that the newspaper publisher is discussing with Apple whether it could begin charging for news through iTunes.

The Financial Times is looking at a micropayment system of paying for individual articles. The FT's publisher Pearson is also a major producer of textbooks, and it is possible that the Apple tablet could be more successful than the Kindle in providing an interactive touchscreen platform that allows students to read books while accessing related video content and information relating to their personal course work.

"We welcome innovations that allow students and other learners to access our content at any time and any place," said a company spokesman yesterday. Over to you Mr Jobs.

Apple vision: Building the future


iMac (1998): The brightly-coloured desktop computer is now regarded as a classic of late '90s design, and it had the performance to match.

*iPod (2001): The small, stylish music player swept away all of its competition in the MP3 market.

*iPhone (2007): Easy-to-use internet access coupled with Apple's ingenious "App Store" ensured a winner.


*Newton Messagepad (1993): One of the earliest PDAs (personal digital assistant), its handwriting recognition system was frustratingly inaccurate.

*G4 Cube (2000): It looked good compared to other desktop computers of the time, but critics complained was too expensive and cracks appeared in its clear plastic casing.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

    £30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

    Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Engineer - Linux, Windows, Cloud - Central London

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + 10% bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engin...

    Recruitment Genius: Configuration and Logistics Team Member

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has over 30 years ...

    Guru Careers: Creative Director / Head of Creative

    £65K - £75K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Creative Director...

    Day In a Page

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk
    Nepal earthquake: One man's desperate escape from Everest base camp after the disaster

    Escape from Everest base camp

    Nick Talbot was sitting in his tent when the tsunami of snow and rock hit. He was lucky to live, unlike his climbing partner just feet away...
    Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer, says study

    What happened when 20 Americans swapped diets with 20 Africans?

    Innovative study in the US produces remarkable results
    Blake Lively and 'The Age of Adaline': Gossip Girl comes
of age

    Gossip girl comes of age

    Blake Lively is best known for playing an affluent teenager. Her role as a woman who is trapped forever at 29 is a greater challenge
    Goat cuisine: Kid meat is coming to Ocado

    Goat cuisine

    It's loved by chefs, ethical, low in fat and delicious. So, will kid meat give lamb a run for its money?
    14 best coat hooks

    Hang on: 14 best coat hooks

    Set the tone for the rest of your house with a stylish and functional coat rack in the hallway
    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?