What’s interesting about Aside is that the publishers have eschewed developing a dedicated iPad app for it. Instead, Aside is the world’s first magazine that’s 100% created in HTML 5.
What that means in practice is that not only is there nothing to download in order to read the magazine, but that the magazine can theoretically be read on any device. iPads, naturally, but also Android devices, netbooks, laptops – and whatever else that has a browser in it – without the publishers having to redevelop the platform for other devices.
In the twelve months or so since its release, there’s no doubt that the iPad has had a profound effect on publishing. However, the issue (pun intended!) that sticks at the back of my throat is that – obviously – you HAVE to have an iPad to read an iPad magazine app. You are forced to purchase a proprietary device, and run a proprietary application on it (iOS apps don’t run on anything else than iOS devices) in order to access the content.
Using HTML5, in contrast, gets the content out to the readership who don’t have iPads. Sure, Apple have dominant market share for tablets today, at around 75%, but as other (non iOS) manufacturers continue to launch more and more competitive devices that slice of the pie is bound to shrink. Research company Gartner estimates that share to shrink to 47% in three years, for example.
As a result, publishers supplying digital versions of their wares that includes iOS apps will be forced to offer multiple formats of the same content. iOS apps for the Apple crowd, and something else (probably HTML5) for everyone else. Moving to an all-HTML5 position, however, enables Apple devices and other devices to access the same content. Two birds, one stone.
Apple’s strategy, which hasn’t really changed that much in 25 years, is to get you to buy their hardware so that you can use their software. You love Final Cut Pro, or Keynote, or GarageBand, or whatever, and since these applications only exist on OS X you end up buying a Mac. The compelling argument for the iPhone and iPod Touch has always been less about the innards and more about the gazillion apps that you can download for them. But Android is catching up fast, and overtaking iOS – in smartphones at least.
Amazon is a great example, in my opinion, of a company that gets it right. Yes, you can download and read books on your Kindle. But you can also download and read Kindle books on iPhones, iPod Touches, iPads – as well as Android devices, Macs and Windows machines. Amazon have realized that the ‘software’ in the case of publishing isn’t the app – it’s the words and pictures of the book/magazine/whatever.
Surely what the publishing industry needs to move forward is a ubiquitous, open and extensible content delivery format for the digital age, much as ink on paper has been for the analog one.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.