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The future of publishing is digital if …

I’m one of those folks who believe that the future of magazines and newspapers will, at least to a significant extent, be determined by how publications adapt to devices such as the iPad. There will always be room for print magazines and newspapers (at least some) — as there will always be printed books — but most publications are going to have to have a digital option to thrive, if not survie.

The main attraction — for me, anyway — is that I can carry dozens of newspapers and magazines around with me on one, small device (my iPad). On my recent jaunt to San Francisco for the Macworld Expo, I had over a dozen ebooks, as well as videos and albums, available for two days’ worth of travel. Talk about lightening your load.

Also, digital publications offer a “green” solution that can cut back on paper usage.

A lot of the success of electronic newspapers and magazines depends on price. A digital publication should cost half as much as the print version, as there are no physical printing or shipping costs involved. Digital magazines and newspapers will sell if done right and priced right. However, there’s still a lot of the general public that needs to be educated about the advantages that digital publications can offer.

For example, I love the UK’s “MacUser” magazine, but the print version is a bit pricey for me. However, if I could subscribe to it on my iPad for the same price as an US-based magazine, I’m there. And why should it cost more? There are — again — no physical printing or shipping costs involved.

Also — and Apple probably doesn’t want to hear this — digital publications and ebooks shouldn’t be tied to one device or platform. If there were a digital version of “The Tennesseean,” my local paper, I’d want to subscribe and be able to read it on my Mac or iOS device — not just my iPad. And others would want to be able to read it on their iPad, Windows machine or Android device. The iBookstore and the iNewsstand (or whatever Apple may call its newspaper/magazine subscription service) shouldn’t be so restrictive as to be unusable for a majority of people.

If you doubt that change is coming, consider this: publishing group Gannett, which is also the largest owner of local newspapers in the US, has radically restructured USA Today as it cuts costs and tries to dedicate more resource to the production and distribution of news digitally. The reorganization saw 130 jobs at the newspaper cut in August, notes “The Telegraph” (http://macte.ch/eynnh).

“The iPad had been a real positive for USA Today,” Gracia Martore, Gannett’s chief operating officer, says. “We expect this will translate into a much more significant improvement,” regarding revenues, she added. The iPad, the latest product from Apple, has been seen by some publishers as a device capable of reproducing the pleasure of reading a newspaper while still being able to deliver updated content to the reader.

The app for USA Today, which relinquished its status as the country’s most-read national paper to “The Wall Street Journal,” has had more than 1.4 million downloads since it was started in April, notes “The Telegraph.”

Another important point: those of us spoiled by the Internet have to accept the fact that all content can’t be offered for free. Content providers have to make a living, too. That means paying for the books and publications we love, just as we have to pay for the music we enjoy (and you do pay for it, don’t you?).

A good test for the future of digital magazines will be “The Daily,” which will be published, well, daily. It will purportedly will sell for 99 cents a week, will use lots of video, and will have cool multimedia bells and whistles.

In fact, Apple and News Corp. will hold an event today at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. News Corp. Chairman & CEO Rupert Murdock and Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Internet Services, will oversee the event. The event will almost certainly see the launch of “The Daily.” Also, Apple’s Cue will probably announce the long-anticipated iTunes subscription purchasing model that will allow publishers to bill customers on a recurring basis rather than requiring per-issue in-app purchases.

“MacNews” and “MacTech” will, of course, be updating you on the event. A lot more than the debut of one publication is riding on this event, so stay tuned.

— Dennis Sellers
dsellers@applecentral.com

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