Tablet Part Two: The true significance of the Tablet

Brian Lam hints at it on Gizmodo this morning, but it’s worth a deeper explanation. Little hint: It ain’t about technology.

Here’s the money quote from Brian Lam’s Gizmodo article about how we’re trying to redefine newspapers, textbooks and magazines:

The eventual goal is to have publishers create hybridized content that draws from audio, video, interactive graphics in books, magazines and newspapers, where paper layouts would be static. And with release dates for Microsoft’s Courier set to be quite far away and Kindle stuck with relatively static e-ink, it appears that Apple is moving towards a pole position in distribution of this next-generation print content. First, it’ll get its feet wet with more basic repurposing of the stuff found on dead trees today.

Italics mine on the “hybridized content.” Because that’s the key thing here. And that’s what Brian is getting at when he talks about “redefining” newspapers and other dead-tree products.

New technology spawns new ways to tell stories. That’s the really exciting thing here. Not the tablet itself, but what it means for news, for entertainment, for literature. Gasp. Geddit? Is the fucking light going off yet? This is what Anton Chekhov meant when he said that the medium is the message. This is why the Tablet is so profound.

There is no point in moving to digital readers if we’re just going to do what we did on paper. That’s why Kindle is such a piece of shit. All they did was pave the cowpath. And that’s why we’ve held back on our Tablet — not because the technology wasn’t ready, but because the content guys are such fucktards that they still can’t create anything that makes it worth putting the Tablet into the world.

It’s stunning how few of the big guys in publishing actually understand this. We’ve invited them in for meetings, and while we’re talking we sort of give them a little quiz, in the form of a very simple question: Where do you think publishing is going? Most of them can’t see anything other than what they’ve done in the past. To them this is all just another blip, a little shift in their business, like going from black-and-white newspapers to color, or going from broadsheet to tabloid.

But that’s not it at all. We’re talking about an entirely new way to convey information, one that incorporates dynamic elements (audio, video) with static elements (text, photos) plus the ability for the “audience” to become content creators, not just content consumers.

The funny thing is that the publishing guys still consider themselves the “creative” side of the business, even though they’re the ones with no vision. In their minds, we techies are just a pack of drones. And they wonder why, in this new digital age, we’re reaping most of the financial rewards.

My guess is that the truly revolutionary content is not going to come from the old-guard publishers. It’s going to come from new guys, kids who have grown up digital. This notion of mashing together elements comes naturally to them. And somewhere out there, a genius is waiting to be discovered — the Orson Welles of digital media, someone who will create an entirely new language for storytelling. If you’re reading this, Orson Jr., please get in touch. I’ve got something I want to show you. Okay? Peace.