(Read introduction: Coming up next, review of the 2012 media trends.) The extraordinary success of the iPad has generated unexpected spinoffs for the market; not since the onset of the “tablet revolution” had one of the devices truly captured the public’s interest. Still, as of the second quarter of 2011, the use of tablets seemed confined to the affluent, with 45.9% of users having an annual income of more than $100,000 (Comscore, Digital Omnivores).
But now, with the introduction of the Kindle Fire, Nook, and other tablets for under $200 and the emergence of initiatives such as DataWind in India, the tablet is poised to become the latest gadget for the masses and may have the same impact on the e-publishing industry as the iPod had on digital music distribution a few years ago. According to the economic news coming from the media industry, newspapers and print publications have been at the top of the “endangered species” list for the past three years.
However, by the end of 2011, encouraging news was coming from publishers whose apps for tablets had pushed their profits beyond the forecasts, prompting renewed hope. Such is the case for The Economist and magazine publisher Hearst. Despite statistics on mobile application use showing that game downloads systematically represented the most popular application category in 2011, data recently released by SODEC indicates genuine signs of growth, notably in the U.S., where digital book sales rose by 162.9% in the first quarter of 2011, reaching US$313 million, while print book sales dropped by 18.7%. Certain emerging phenomena suggest that e-publishing and digital distribution of narrative content will gain increasing popularity in 2012. Among the observable trends are a keen interest in self-publishing options (Amazon, Wattpad) and for aggregation and page layout applications such as Flipboard. Will 2012 be – as promoted by the Economist – the year for Lean–back 2.0?