Will the iPad save the publishing industry?

This article from Cory Doctorow is similar to a couple of other contrarian articles that have come out in the past week--they all complain about the perceived "closed" nature of the iPad and/or say that the iPad is not going to save the publishing business.

Doctorow complains that there is little opportunity to hack the iPad; he is coming at this criticism from a hardware perspective. He wants to be able to open it up and do stuff with innards, and talks about how great the Apple II was because you hack that to your hearts content. But I remember those days, and did a fair amount of hacking myself. While it was fun, hackers back then were still a minority, and they still are today. It is pretty hard to make something that weighs a pound and a half that you can hold in your lap AND take apart and mess around with. If Doctorow wants to hack stuff, well, that's what the Arduino is for. I would have killed for an Arduino back in the Apple II days. I don't really get his complaint here, as there is plenty of stuff that can be nicely hacked, but that's not the market Apple is going after.

But I would argue that the iPad is very open--from a software perspective, and one only need look at the three thousand plus applications that already run on the iPad. Most of these apps are being written by small, wrote it in my bedroom, software outfits--the very kind of "hacker" types that Doctorow claims are locked out by Apple. Before the end of 2010, there will be tens of thousands of apps for the iPad, because Apple has created great software development tools that make it really easy to write software for the iPad.

Doctorow, like Jose Vargas and many others, also insists that the iPad is not going to save "traditional" magazine and newspaper publishers. I agree, but I think they are missing the point. The iPad is not going to help magazines like Time and Newsweek. But Apple's end to end publishing model that includes the iPad and the iTunes Store makes it possible for almost anyone to go into the publishing business. And so the big traditional media rags like Time and Newsweek and many newspapers will continue their slow decline toward irrelevance. But in their place, a host of new publications, with new pricing models, new editorial and writing models, and more relevant content will take their place.

The iPad is not going to save traditional media, unless traditional media wants to change to adapt to the times. Instead, the iPad is going to be a boon to new media, in many forms--the written word, the drawn image, the video, the TV program, the game. We will not know the full extent of the iPad's influence for at least a couple of years, but I think its effects will be more far-reaching than the iPod.

Knowledge Democracy: