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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Remaining Hours of Tabble*

Posted by on Tue, Jan 26, 2010 at 1:27 PM

Tomorrow is the day that Apple allegedly reveals their tablet computer, and you can't go anywhere on the internet today without tripping over a rumor/perspective piece about what it will mean. (It's kind of impressive that all this speculation is still just speculation; they're running an airtight motherfucking ship over at Apple.) I'm sorry to report that I am not immune to this pointless armchair prognostication; I'll be watching Engadget as excitedly as anyone else tomorrow morning at 10 am. Here's what seems real to me on the internet:

I really think that this post by The Jesus Tablet is probably as close a prediction of the high concept of the Apple Tablet as you're going to read before tomorrow. They call it "The World's First Companion Computer," and I think that's going to be about right:

We believe much of the initial marketing and apps will be geared toward home use, and if the price is in the $600 range, plus service plan, as we anticipate, the iPad will be shared and passed around the family. On the couch, checking email or game stats. In the kitchen looking up recipes while watching Desparate Housewives on demand. The device will know who you are, get to know your personality, and will present itself differently to you than it does to your spouse or kid. It will identify you and respond to you individually in really cool and unique ways.

(But to prove the problems with all this prediction, Jesus Tablet's very next guess, that the tablet will have a "killer app" to get people interested (which is probably true), and that killer app will be television (which is probably false), is primarily wrong.)

Several anti-tablet screeds are worth reading. This one, on DailyKos, theorizes that the tablet could be a way to turn the Web into an Orchard:

Tablet or not, odds are that this week will see Apple's entry into books and magazines. The bow wave of that pending event is already reshaping everything from how much the New York Times is willing to give away on their web site to what Amazon pays in ebook royalties. When this wave has passed, there's every chance that a lot of people will make their way through the Internet without ever seeing the letters "www" again.

And this cautionary essay for publishers is worth noting. If the tablet takes off as an e-reader—and if it does, it could change the face of independent bookselling and (if Marvel and DC are onboard with Apple) make the comic book store extinct—publishers will basically be giving up all their power to Apple:

First, if there is a bigger control freak in the media industry than Jeff Bezos, it is Steve Jobs. Have publishers forgotten that the music industry was unhappy with iTunes pricing but couldn’t budge Jobs? Publishers can’t budge Amazon’s $9.99 pricing, what are they going to do when Jobs demands $6.99 pricing? Second, if rumors are right and that what Apple is bringing to the table is a tablet and not a dedicated reading device, what makes publishers think tablet buyers will suddenly become book buyers?

In any case, all the speculation will end tomorrow. From there, all the meaningless prognostication can begin. If you're an Apple hater, you'd probably be better off going fishing tomorrow.

* Babble about the Apple tablet.

 

Comments (5) RSS

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1
Paul, were you this excited when IBM started mass producing tablets about a decade ago? I really hope it is just a glorified e-book reader, otherwise I think the "cool" aspect of the Apple Tablet will wear off pretty quickly and people will just go back to buying Macbooks. The same thing happened to IBM.

People were freaking out over the whole tablet thing, and then what happened? They said "fuck it" and exchanged their tablets for normal notebook style Thinkpads.

PS I thought Paul hated technology. I guess I was wrong.
Posted by Devin on January 26, 2010 at 2:15 PM · Report this
Violet_DaGrinder 2
My only prediction is that I will want one.
Posted by Violet_DaGrinder http://www.imeem.com/jukeboxmusic51/music/y1malqpG/prince-the-new-power-generation-featuring-eric-leeds-on-f/ on January 26, 2010 at 2:36 PM · Report this
3
I don't understand the "From the Frying Pan to the Fire" article at all.

Why use the comeuppance of the famously corrupt music industry as your clarion-call warning to book publishers. Is the suggesting that there are currently obscene profits made at the expense of both the consumer and writer and they must be preserved?

The suggesting that publishers should ban together in a monopolistic cabal to protect their margins is understandable given that he works with publishers, but can hardly be described as an open-market antidote to strong-arming by eBook retailers.

In the comments below the article you can find people happily arguing that a market for "used ebooks" be maintained by the publishing industry.

Used ebooks? What? A classic example of people failing to adapt.

I think the current enthusiasm for the idea of electronic publishing can be found in the App Store model. It is the largest, most successful method for professional and independent software developers to distribute their wares and supports both fixed pricing, subscriptions, and that most fabled of Internet business-models - the "micro-payment."

I have no idea what is coming out tomorrow - and it might well be awful. But to suggest that the proper respond to the threat of ebook piracy is to form industry monopolies is asinine.
Posted by John Galt on January 26, 2010 at 3:33 PM · Report this
Paul Constant 4
@1: I wrote a feature on Twitter for The Stranger, and I blog here and on Tumblr eight or nine times a day; I'm certainly not anti-technology. I've written about the Kindle and the Nook in ways that can be interpreted as negative, but I'm very open to a good e-reader, especially for comic books.

@3: Yeah, publishers haven't been very smart about any of this, but it's good that they're at least discussing their options now. When the internet happened, they just closed their eyes and screamed real loud, hoping it would go away. So delusional essays are a real step up. I agree with you on the app model being promising for publishers, and I likewise agree that "used e-books" are unintentionally hilarious.
Posted by Paul Constant http://https://twitter.com/paulconstant on January 26, 2010 at 3:55 PM · Report this
Eric F 5
We were habituated to the idea that publishers and labels were the only way to get our books/mags/papers/music/data into usable forms, but they really have never figured out a response to "information wants to be free" (rather, people want information for free, and they'll take that price point whenever possible.) And they've cheated creators for years. So screw them for their blindness, greediness, ignorance and incuriosity. Labels should be on their knees thanking Apple for figuring out how to get anyone to pay anything for music. And publishers (and, I dearly hope, TV channels and movie studios) will ultimately benefit from the tablet, kicking and screaming all the way.
Posted by Eric F on January 26, 2010 at 11:59 PM · Report this

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