Publishers Tout Tiny Tablet Sales

Is there any hope for their much-hyped digital editions?

With a slew of numbers they put out last week, publishers showed that there is at least some money to be made on tablet devices.

Time Inc. said it’s sold more than 600,000 digital single copies of People, Time, Sports Illustrated, and Fortune. A few days earlier, Condé Nast revealed it had sold 106,000 digital editions, counting both subscriptions and single copies, in the six weeks since it started selling via Apple’s iTunes store, with overall paid downloads totaling nearly 1 million since late 2009. Over at Bonnier, Popular Science has sold 25,000 iPad subscriptions since February and Popular Photography 10,000 since April.

Those numbers still represent a tiny part of magazine circulation, but publishers rightly feel they need to get in on the tablet action early. And sales could get a real boost when Apple launches its Newsstand this fall.

The news was especially encouraging for Time Inc., both because it came as part of a push to put all 21 of its titles on tablets by year’s end and because it shows the company hasn’t stalled on the digital front despite its having been without a CEO since February.