Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The iPhone As An eBook Publishing Platform

Back in early 2005, I started a blog titled "Future of Radio" in which I discussed the coming revolution in radio and communications technology. One of my topic labels was "cellphonecasting," which was a term I coined to refer to phones with wireless broadband capability that could be used to receive internet radio and video streaming. Eventually, that morphed into my conclusion that one day we would carry around a sort of "universal communications device" that would be your mobile phone, have your MP3 and video files for entertainment, allow you to store photos, contact information, and other files, and would finally provide wireless broadband access to the internet.

I discontinued the "Future of Radio" after getting sick, but I was pleased to see the original iPhone validated the notion of "cellphonecasting" and a pocket-sized "universal communications device."

Elsevier gave me an iPod Touch last year after I left my consulting gig, and it was a revelation to use. I was struck by the clarity and resolution of the small screen, and had no trouble reading any of the web pages I accessed on it via WiFi. I mentioned to some of my friends in the publishing business that I thought something like the iPod Touch or iPhone could become an eBook platform. I also felt dedicated eBook platforms like Amazon's Kindle were not the way to go because most of us are looking to carry around fewer items, not more; multifunction devices like the iPod Touch/iPhone struck me as the way of the future.

That's why I found this post from Joe Wikert about his experiences with the iPhone 3G as an eBook platform very interesting. Note how his commenters are also reporting their positive experiences with the iPhone 3G as an eBook reader.

So what would I do if I were 30 and in the print publishing or terrestrial/satellite radio businesses? I would be preparing for a future in which almost everyone has something like the iPhone 3G and gets "publications" and "radio" through it.

For a lot of big, established media players, this is going to be a painful, perhaps fatal, transition. For budding entrepreneurs with energy, imagination, and boldness, it's going to be the opportunity to make a lot of money. . . . . . and I mean a LOT of money.

Given the current gloom and doom about the economy, that might sound a little crazy. But two of the greatest business success stories of the last 50 years, Apple and Microsoft, were started in the mid-1970s, in a similarly hostile-----if not worse-----economic environment. Anybody remember gasoline lines? A prime interest rate of over 20%? Double-digit inflation? It wasn't fun back then, boys and girls, but Steve Jobs and Bill Gates recognized what was on the horizon, took action, and won big. Heck, we started LLH/HighText back in 1990, and the economy wasn't exactly great then. But that's the best time to start something new because many of your potential competitors will be fearfully huddled in their caves, waiting for the storm to pass.

The same is possible today, and brains and the willingness to take a chance will be a lot more important than money and connections.

If I could be reasonably confident of being around two years from now, I'd be getting my ass into high gear to exploit these opportunities. As it is, I am going to make my next book, currently being written, available for the iPhone. If you're in publishing or broadcasting and are reading these words, what are you waiting for?

Whatever you do, or dream, begin it now. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.----Goethe