As you’ve no doubt heard from a slew of other, far more reputable news sources, Apple yesterday announced the release of the iPad; a portable, full colour tablet device which on the face of it, looks like it’s going to shake up not just the computing industry but TV, gaming and publishing as well.
As the New York Observer reported late last year, Time Inc., Conde Nast and Hearst have all signed a deal to sell digital mags in a kind of iTunes for magazines and books and which Apple revealed yesterday will be called, you guessed it, iBooks.
Are we worried? Actually, not a bit.
We’re obliged, of course, to carry the Time and Newsweeks of this world but they are by no means our bread and butter. A vast and overwhelming proportion of our sales are for small-run, collectible, niche titles like Sneaker Freaker, Lula, Purple Fashion, Self Service and Dumbo feather… that is, beautiful tactile printed objects.
Which is to say that most of the magazines we sell are not than the kind of throwaway newsprint titles that this device may end up replacing.
More than anyone, we’re aware of how wasteful the magazine industry is; every week we send back hundreds of unsold magazines to our distributors where they’ll be pulped. This kind of slash and burn approach is at best unsustainable and at worst, completely wasteful and absurd in the year 2010. (I mean, this is meant to be ‘the future’, right? If we’d had our way, the iPad would have surfaced closer to 2001 along with jetpacks, ray-guns and teleportation devices.)
We hope that the arrival of a portable reading device such as the iPad will stamp out a huge proportion of the unnecessary waste created by the publishing industry, but by no means we do we see it spelling the end of the magazine format as we know it.
Just as sales of vinyl LPs continue to steadily rise in the face of downloads and (dwindling) CD sales, we see a promising future for niche printed media and we look forward to being a part of that for years to come.
Fittingly, London based Newspaper Club goes into public beta today. These guys are set to launch on-demand newspaper printing for individuals and groups wanting to print as few as five newsprint papers or as many as five thousand for a comparable per unit price.