Apple CEO Steve Jobs Talks iPad to New York Times Execs, Says Report
Apple CEO Steve Jobs was in New York City this week to talk with
executives from The New York Times about the upcoming iPad tablet PC,
according to reports.
New York magazine, quoting unnamed sources, says that Jobs and 50 higher-ups from the newspaper gathered at Pranna, a restaurant near Madison Square Park, on Feb. 3. Jobs, wearing what was described as "a very funny hat," apparently demonstrated the iPad for Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and discussed the device's application to traditional print outlets.
Apple had announced the iPad at a high-profile event in San Francisco on Jan. 27, but the high-intensity buzz that had built among bloggers and pundits before that point about the device's possible features seems to have transferred, energy-wise, into an equally furious debate about its implications for a variety of fields, including traditional publishing, and competitors such as Amazon.com's Kindle line of e-readers.
For months, Amazon and other companies have been promoting their e-readers as the best chance of traditional print media to survive in the face of ad-revenue declines, announcing partnerships with a number of publishing entities. In May, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos launched a large-screen e-reader, the Kindle DX, at Pace University's Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts, a building constructed on the 19th-century headquarters of The New York Times-an allusion lost on nobody when he brought Arthur Sulzberger Jr. there to cite the Kindle's role in the "convergence between print and digital."
In addition to announcing deals with major newspapers, Amazon used that event to highlight its agreements with three of the top five textbook publishers-Cengage Learning, Pearson, and Wiley-and more than 75 University press publishers to make their products available through the Kindle Store starting later in 2009. Other e-reader manufacturers, including Barnes & Noble, have announced similar deals with newspaper companies and publishers of specialized content.
But the iPad has the potential to be an extraordinarily disruptive influence upon the space, by virtue of being able to display a variety of multimedia content and formatted text on its 9.7-inch screen. A page from The New York Times was one of those displayed during the Jan. 27 presentation.
"Apple is taking on Amazon's Kindle directly with iPad, though iPad has weaknesses as a dedicated e-book reader and its entry level cellular-enabled model is $629, much more than the Kindle's $259," IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian wrote in a Jan. 27 research note. "IPS offers a better viewing angle than traditional LCD technologies, but is not any better than other LCDs outdoors, and its backlighting can induce discomfort from eyestrain, something that Kindle has hedged against with its E Ink display technology."
That being said, Kevorkian added, "iPad's color display opens it up to a realm of color content not supported by Kindle...The new iBookstore, supported with partnerships with five major publishers (Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette) give legitimacy to iPad as a reading device."
In a sign that the iPad may already be exerting a sort of gravitational pull on the e-reader market, publishers have started locking horns with Amazon over the prices of e-books on the Kindle store. On Jan. 31, a war of words between Amazon and Macmillan erupted, with Amazon temporarily ceasing sale of all the publisher's titles in protest after Macmillan wanted to raise those books' prices to between $12.99 and $14.99. On Feb. 5, Hachette announced that it would allow in requesting higher price points for its wares.
"It's important to note we are not looking to the agency model as a way to make more money on e-books," David Young, chairman and CEO of Hachette Book Group, wrote in a memo posted on media blog Mediabistro. "We're willing to accept lower return for e-book sales as we control the value of our product-books, and content in general. We're taking the long view on e-book pricing, and this new model helps protect the long term viability of the book marketplace."
Whether other publishers follow suit remains to be seen, but fiery competition between iPad and Kindle could be seen as an opportunity by those companies to leverage better e-text deals. The potential also exists for newspaper and periodical companies such as the New York Times to broaden their own deals, now that the iPad offers another distribution channel.