Jason Snell wrote a terrific piece about why iBooks Author is a big deal for publishers, and if you haven’t, you should read it. He pointed something out that hadn’t occurred to me about iBooks Author. He wrote:
I look at iBooks Author and wonder if it might be, even now, an alternative for publications that don’t want to build an app—or feel that the app they can afford to build won’t be very good. What if periodical publishers could get access to Newsstand by publishing issues using a tool more like iBooks Author, to a standardized format? What if people could buy subscriptions to magazines and newspapers in the iBookstore? Instead of building an expensive container, we could spend our money on the stuff we put inside that container.
I think it’d be better if new editions showed up in the Newsstand folder, but that’s not the point: this is a really, really good idea. Publishing on the iPad right now is not very nice; magazines tend to be static images, even for text, and as you’d expect, the experience is terrible for readers. Creating a full-fledged application for their publication is prohibitively expensive and very difficult, so they haven’t done it. They’ve chosen a route which largely fits their existing workflow but results in a poor experience for readers.
iBooks Author could help eliminate that. Publications can create new issues that are really nice to read and are tailored to fit their own identity, without ever creating their own application. Publications would get the convenience and the unique design for their own publication, and readers would get a good reading experience.
Apple has to be thinking about something like this, because it makes too much sense not to. Building an application isn’t the solution for publishing on the iPad, because it’s not something everyone can do. Creating a workflow that is largely similar to a publication’s current one is. Working with iBooks Author, or whatever the application becomes, would be an addition to their work—additional work for sure—but it also largely fits what they’re already doing.