It seems that at least half the world – mostly publishers of books, newspapers and magazines – are holding their collective breath awaiting Apple's announcement of their long-rumored tablet tomorrow. And if those publishers follow the path of the music industry, they have plenty to be worried about.
When Apple introduced iTunes, they gave people what they wanted: access to music at realistic prices. The suits at the record labels fought tooth and nail trying to find ways to protect their phony boloney jobs and keep the money they'd been making at the expense of those who created real value. Rather than trying to find ways to add value in the new system, the labels fought against the flow and for the most part have been tossed out of the revenue stream. iTunes has democratized the music industry making more music available to more people, while putting more money where it belongs, in the artists pockets.
Ben Sidran, an internationally known Jazz pianist, struggled to get distribution for his music under the traditional system and earned pennies for each song sold. Under the iTunes model everyone with the internet has access to his music and he earns at least 10 times more per song.
If Apple really does launch the tablet tomorrow, publishers have a choice. They can try to hold back the tide by fighting to sell packaged content that over-delivers for most consumers (who reads every word printed in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal everyday?) and maintain all control over consumer information. Or they can open their minds to the new opportunities that will exist thanks to increased access and reduced distribution costs. It's their choice.