Is the Apple Tablet the "Avatar" of Publishing?


"Dizzying, enveloping, vertiginous ... I ran out of adjectives." - New York Magazine

"You've never experienced anything like it, and neither has anyone else." - L.A. Times

Breakthrough technology. An experience like no other. The rare focused rush that sidelines Twitter feeds, Facebook updates, even cellphones. A truly immersive, magical story.

James Cameron's Avatar is the biggest blockbuster possibly ever, the kind of movie that invites repeat viewings and drags out everybody and their mom to the theater, just to say they saw it. It's more than a cultural event--it's a piece of history. I despise heading to the movie theater, as it requires work and expense and avoiding caffeine for the hour beforehand so I don't have to run to the loo, plus I have a bomb flatscreen/surround sound setup at home where I can watch whatever I want in whatever clothing arrangement I see fit--but I dropped $19 to see Avatar in 3D on IMAX.

Because there's nothing else like it in the world. And it's printing money for Hollywood.

"I have seen the future of movies, and it is Avatar." - Detroit News

Now I haven't seen the Apple Tablet, iSlate, or whatever they wind up calling the new device due to be announced by Apple this month. But all signs say it is the future of publishing, capable of doing for NY what Avatar did for Hollywood: reinvent the magic, create breathtaking new ground--and, the best part--get more people reading more books than ever before.

Overspeculating on Apple's next move is a surefire way to get into trouble, but this dazzling video of Sports Illustrated's tablet-in-development is a fair place to start. Apple anticipates selling 10 million of their own beauties by the end of the year. (Adding to the fun, Microsoft & HP are dropping their own tablet soon.)

Videos embedded in my book? Badass--just like bonus features on a DVD. Sharing my favorite passages online? I love seeing what my friends recommend--sells more books too. Easy to read? Remains to be seen, but Apple gets the benefit of the doubt. And if all the whizbang gadgets get annoying, just turn em off and read away on what's likely to be a simple and beautiful device that will likely make it easier than ever to buy more books.

I won't get into the business model situation here--but in short, Apple offers a chance for publishers to renegotiate ebook deals they hate, and for print media to bring back subscriptions and better monetize the web.

It's not what publishing has been doing for hundreds of years. But today's reader isn't the same reader from hundreds of years ago either. We want superlative experiences underpinned by an old-fashioned good story--and that incredible experience had better be more than a cool dust jacket.

Apple's giving publishers a golden opportunity to win a whole new crop of customers, remake their reactionary reputation, and build a sustainable business model that fits today's readers.

Publishers, please--embrace the amazing. Give us Avatar!