Publishing on the iPad

So here we are more than halfway through the year and over 5 million iPads have been sold. Consumers are rapidly snatching up all the available iPad and iPhone 4 devices as fast as Apple can make them. As a publishing professional you’re asking yourself “what does this mean to me? What impact does this have on the publishing industry and how do we as publishers get involved?”

Released to the public in April 2010, the iPad platform (aka iOS 4) has taken digital publishing by storm. If you have used an iPad then you already know that it is more than a big iPhone, digital book, Internet browser, or device for accessing digital media. It is a revolutionary device and it’s causing a paradigm shift in several information industries.

Users of the iPad are looking to you as publishers to deliver the content they desire in this new medium. Of course, this is not just limited to Apple products but it is also pending the release of smart phones and tablet devices by other companies. So how do you get your content into your reader’s hands?

Smart media devices all support Internet-based browser technologies and can access content online that is tailored to these devices with technologies such as HTML 5, CSS3 and JavaScript. Simply adding a bit of tagging and creating custom style sheets for your website will transform content for these mobile devices. Open source publishing platforms, such as WordPress and Joomla, can use templates designed to optimize the display of the content.

AppleScript, Automator and Mac OS X Services can also be used to automate and build web-ready content. Using Apple’s free development tools, a competent Web developer could build a Web-based applications with a Dashcode. Dashcode apps can then be converted into Xcode – the application that is used to create native Mac OS X and iOS applications for the iPhone and iPad.

Apple has created its own digital reader for the iOS devices called iBooks. The iBooks Store is used to publish digital books in the ePub format. Applications like InDesign can export pages into this format. You can distribute your iBook publications from your own website or distribute for profit through Apple’s iBook store. Resources like lulu.com are available to help you self-publish.

Starting at $99 a year, you can become an Apple developer and be able to publish applications to actual devices like the iPad. Once you become a registered developer and pay the fees, you can submit applications for approval to Apple’s App Store. If Apple approves your iPhone app, they will distribute the application through the App Store.

Native iOS apps are written using Objective-C. There are many resources available to get you up to speed. Several books have been published in physical and digital form that teach users to build apps. Online resources available, such as Lynda.com and Apple’s developer website, offer learning materials online.

If you’re not already an experienced programmer, learning Objective-C has a steep learning curve. The TapLynx framework, among others, help build basic apps in xCode. Frameworks will help you build real iOS applications without having to learn Objective-C.

You can also look into hiring a developer to help you build an app. Simple applications range from $2,500 to $10,000. More sophisticated apps take many months to develop and will cost even more. Experienced developers can be hired for between $80 USD and $160 USD to either consult or develop your application. Single dedicated developers can cost around $6,500 USD per month.

It is both an exciting time and a nerve-racking time. Publishing ink on paper has been under pressure for the last 15 years or so. The Internet has eroded any kind of profit-making and now the iPad presents an opportunity to deliver content to an end user who will be willing to pay for that content. Or, at the very least, advertisers will want the opportunity to deliver their message along with your content. If you’re producing a magazine or newspaper, a list of services or even a real estate listing, the iPad is proving to be a revolutionary publishing platform. You owe it to yourself to explore the opportunity for yourself and your clients.

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