The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posted by Matt on August 5, 2010

I’ve written about portable device publishing before, and have been generally quite supportive of it. It provides a new venue for people to get their work out, especially stuff like comics and other periodicals which are often seen as ‘disposable’, and even stuff like TV shows. They even allow for an expansion in how all these things can be made, creating all sorts of new possibilities.

But it now occurs to me that there is a fundamental problem with these devices: their stores, and the content available on them, is highly controlled. On one hand, this means that there will be almost no really harmful or really dismal quality apps clogging the store; I am certainly not against editorial control. But then I read stuff like this and this (let alone something like this) [And before the three of you reading this get mad -I’m not intentionally focusing only on Apple, but merely posting the major cases of recent months], it really seems that this go far beyond just making sure the quality is up to snuff, especially when you’re dealing with major corporations who police their image compulsively. Other major corporations seem to do just fine under these conditions, but everyone else? They have neither the resources nor the influence to win a fight unless they are able to raise a ruckus online, as some have. But that still leaves a major problem: for all the formatting wonders that device distribution has, the level of control exerted by the companies who run the stores is simply too great for their to be any real feeling of artistic freedom on them.

There are alternatives, though, that could arise as people learn how to use the technology, especially how to integrate the Internet and the devices. During a media class not that long ago, my professor brought up an interesting: the attempts by publishers to find alternative formats and selling methods is muddled when you bring in things like the iPad, where their store is a separate, incompatible entity from the one they established online (which one can access easily on the iPad as well, but won’t take advantage of the format). This essentially forces readers to either choose one or the other, or buy the thing twice. There has to be a better way.

So, when it comes to publishing, I think there will be a point where publishers will need to learn how to best combine these two. They may not need to choose one or the other as their sole market, but I see no reason why someone can’t try to figure out a way to make it so that their online service can download a device-friendly version; one formatted slightly differently, so that it looks more in-line with what someone would expect on an iPhone or Android. Maybe it won’t be as advanced as the ones sold exclusively through the store, lacking many of the punchy effects and interactivity (although who is to say they won’t eventually figure out how to do that?), but at the very least they’ll have a product that people can enjoy reading on both a home computer and a portable device. Plus, this means they’ll have control of their own application, free from the review process that could shut them out for arbitrary reasons.

Please note that I’m no tech-head, so the actual possibility of this is beyond my knowledge. Maybe this all just a pie-in-the-sky fantasy, like expecting my laptop to one day dispense root beer and tell me it loves me. But, hey, at least it might get people thinking. Maybe.

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