Publishing for tablets – A market ripe for disruption

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This week there were two quite intriguing posts on 37signals’ Signal vs. Noise blog:

Tablets are waiting for their Movable Type
Publishers shouldn’t be app developers

Both posts deal with the shortcomings of magazine and newspaper publishing for tablets like the iPad. Currently, publishing for the iPad and other tablets mostly amounts to magazine publishers writing native apps that wrap their content. Given that magazine publishers usually don’t specialize in software development more often than not this entails slow, unstable apps and a generally less than stellar user experience. You might object that there’s Newsstand for iOS, which is supposed to be a standard way for presenting and subscribing to magazine content on the iPad. However, Newsstand actually is nothing more than a glorified iOS folder that still contains ordinary apps.

DHH properly summarizes the sorry state of magazine apps:

These magazine apps completely suck, generally speaking. They suck in the same ways that the CD-ROM rush of the 90s sucked. They suck for all the reasons poorly written native software sucks: They’re slow, they crash, they get stuck.

Ryan makes an interesting point by likening publishing for tablets as of today to web publishing pre-2000:

Remember the web before Movable Type? If you wanted a blog you had to program one. You had to know databases and webhosts and PHP or Perl. If you were “just” a web designer, or a writer with ideas, you had to hire an in-demand web programmer to make it happen. Publishing was expensive and hard.

Before blogging platforms like Movable Type or WordPress publishing for the web boiled down to manually cooking up a database-driven website in a common programming language like PHP or Perl or using a fairly complex CMS that required quite some technical knowledge. Back in the day, web development still was somewhat in its infancy and there were none of those awesome frameworks like Ruby on Rails that greatly simplified and standardized web development. The whole process was error-prone, tedious and complex.

Ryan continues to suggest that what tablet publishing might need right now is a standardized platform similar to blogging platforms for the web:

Now is a great time for another Movable Type. Writers would love a way to push serialized content straight to tablets, and the experience would be a boon to readers. Tablets are the best way to read, and Newsstand is the equivalent of RSS for non-geeks. Hopefully apps like The Magazine inspire somebody to make this happen.

I couldn’t agree more.

However, there’s another exciting aspect to these blog posts. They both sport the underlying theme “Content publishing for tablets sucks!“.

When linking this theme to Jason’s post from earlier this month wherein he outlines how 37signals lately has been pruning its product line in order to make room for new, soon to be announced products the big picture is: 37signals will soon launch a novel tablet publishing product and right now they’re setting the stage.

Considering their pretty impressive publishing history with Signal vs. Noise, Getting Real and REWORK this makes a whole lot of sense, especially considering their “Scratch your own itch” mantra.

I’m quite sure we’ll be seeing such a publishing product by 37signals pretty soon and given their track record this product might very well disrupt the market for tablet publishing solutions.

In the meantime, you might have a look at these promising tools and services that help you with publishing for tablets and and various eBook formats:

About the author: Bjoern
Independent IT consultant, entrepreneur

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