Look Out for eBooks from Non-Publishers

Here’s a bit of food for thought, not really news. It’s no secret that media companies want to get in on eBooks–just this week, Conde Nast and the AP made it clear that they’re going to have cool stuff on iPad when it launches. And, whatever one’s complaints or worries about iPad (it’s just a big iPhone, etc.), it is going to be the first mass-market device that takes the Internet to a portable screen that’s totally comfortable to view, and connects it to content that’s been downloaded to hardware.

So, here’s a prediction: in the next couple of years, once there are lots of iPads and other tablets all over, once the prices have come down, once the wars over pricing, DRM and file formats for eBooks are somewhat more settled, look for other kinds of media companies–not publishers, but companies with huge archives of content that perhaps they haven’t used, like news companies, TV networks, and huge film studios–to get involved in eBooks, or to create eBook-like publications that are discrete things you can buy, but that link out in one way or another to those content archives.

These kinds of media companies are looking for new revenue streams, for ways to monetize what they’ve already got, because advertising isn’t cutting it. Right now, they’re waiting to see how this market develops, whether lots of people will adopt the hardware. Then they’re also trying to figure out how to do the in-house work required–sorting through everything they own, packaging it, etc.–in a cost-effective manner. But it won’t be long before we’re seeing multimedia “eBooks” that combine all the formats we’ve been consuming, published by companies we’ve never thought of as publishers.