For Apple’s Upcoming Tablet, Content Is King

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As Brian Lam on Gizmodo today says about Apple “redefining print” for its upcoming tablet, it’s all about the content.

If Apple has learned anything from the iPod, it’s that a modern consumer electronic device is a three-legged stool: hardware, software, and media that fills it.

Apple doesn’t want to launch a tablet without media to consume on it. This is the mistake Apple made with the Apple TV: It’s a great piece of hardware and software, but the content isn’t there yet (especially the paucity of Hollywood movies).

So Steve has set out to persuade publishing houses, magazine companies and textbook publishers to make interactive books and magazines that make sense on an interactive, multitouch device. Here’s the key paragraph from Lam’s story:

“Some I’ve talked to believe the initial content will be mere translations of text to tablet form. But while the idea of print on the Tablet is enticing, it’s nothing the Kindle or any E-Ink device couldn’t do. The eventual goal is to have publishers create hybridized content that draws from audio, video and interactive graphics in books, magazines and newspapers, where paper layouts would be static. And with release dates for Microsoft’s Courier set to be quite far away and Kindle stuck with relatively static E-Ink, it appears that Apple is moving towards a pole position in distribution of this next-generation print content. First, it’ll get its feet wet with more basic repurposing of the stuff found on dead trees today.”

But what might this “hybrid content” look like?

One clue comes from Enhanced Editions, a U.K. startup founded by former-book industry executives that seeks to marry technology with traditional print publishing. “We have long-since seen the destiny of the latter bound to its embrace of the former,” the company says.


Founded in 2008 after the launch of the App Store, Enhanced Editions says the iPhone/Touch platform is a unique multimedia device, while iTunes presents an exciting distribution mechanism. So the company created an iPhone app for publishing “enhanced” ebooks. “We set ourselves the mission of making the reading software that Apple themselves would make,” the company says.

The company just published it’s first enhanced eBook, Nick Cave’s “The Death of Bunny Munro.” See the trailer for the book above.

Available as a $24.99 app (there’s also a free lite version restricted to the first three chapters), the app includes:

* The Bunny Munro ebook.
* An audiobook narrated by Nick Cave himself, synchronized to the text.
* An original ebook soundtrack, composed by Cave and Warren Ellis, that’s been specially mixed for headphone listening.
* 11 videos of Cave reading excerpts from the novel.

The app can be used to switch between audio and ebook versions, and remembers your place even if you switch formats. It has tilt to scroll, the ability to add bookmarks, or email quotes to friends. There’s also built-in news reader that receives news and extras sent to the app. The company says it has other multimedia tricks up its sleeve, but is keeping them under wraps for now.

The book is being well received, but the app is getting rave reviews. “The app itself is amazing,” says one reviewer on iTunes. “This is the new (and hard to beat) standard for book as app,” says another.

It’s not hard to imagine how such multimedia-enhanced ebooks, and likewise music CDs (Apple’s rumored “Cocktail” project) would be ideal content for a touchscreen tablet.

Next up from Enhanced Editions are Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father and Audacity of Hope, and The Corner by David Simon and ED Burns (of HBO’s The Wire), among others.

As they said during the first dotcom boom, “content is king.”

About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

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Posted in Apple, News, Opinions, Rumors, Tablet |