iTunes is the master of its domain when it comes to digital music distribution and Apple is even breaking into online distribution of podcasts, music videos, TV show and movies. But there's a virtually untapped new market on the horizon for Apple's venerable music distribution platform: magazines and books.
Apple has the potential to shake up the printed magazine and book market just like they did with music and now television and movies. It's good news for trees but bad news for some ivory tower-type fat cat print executives.
It works like this: Apple could begin distributing textual content via iTunes in PDF format. The documents could easily be read as text or even spoken to you via Apple's text-to-speech technology. Make magazine has an excellent article on the PDFcasting:
There are a small but growing number of PDFs appearing in iTunes, users can subscribe to podcasts to automatically receive audio and video - and recently - PDFs. At MAKE & CRAFT we have experimented with this from the start - we have also cataloged all the podcasts that send out PDFs we could find here. Eventually I think phones (including the iPhone) will be able to read PDFs via this method, perhaps a future iPod making it possible to easily distribute ebooks to these devices.
How is that bad for traditional magazine publishers, you ask? Granted, they'll still make money by syndicating their content through another distribution channel, arguably at an even higher profit margin because digital is much cheaper than trees, ink and trucks. But if Apple establishes themselves as the leading online distributor of (previously) printed content, then publishers would have to negotiate with Apple who would have all the bargaining power and the ability can set prices appropriately.
Did you know that Apple commands a whopping 55 percent cut for items distributed through their retail stores?
All Apple needs to do is to release a really slick magazine and book reading interface for iTunes and they have the potential to take away as much as 25 percent of magazine sales in less than five years. Not to mention that the iPhone would make a perfect platform for a full-screen "reader" interface, wouldn't it?