As fanboys, tech media and the chattering class anticipate the Apple iPad’s retail availability in four days, much discussion has focused on the device’s impact on book publishers, and what the publishing industry’s public relations plans are. The iPad is anticipated to be more popular than rival gadgets, and will leverage e-books as a prime digital offering. Seeing as how the iPod turned the music industry upside-down, the iPad could have similar impact on the book industry.
But, as the New York Times points out, the iPad’s adoption by consumers will also affect the book industry another way. Authors and publishers enjoy the benefit of indirect marketing and endorsement when readers are seen enjoying a particular book in public. The visual appeal of a book’s cover also helps other potential readers clue in to the book and make a note to purchase later.
Thus, the common marketing tactic of a book cover’s visual appeal will start to take a back seat when there’s no physical book in sight. In turn, a random reader’s endorsement will now gravitate toward other platforms, such as a Facebook fan page (or “like” page, if the interface is tweaked).
This is where publishers must step up their game and make sure they have calibrated their marketing strategies to leverage social media. Any public relations plan must account for the shifting dynamics of book sales and promotion, and capture new opportunities available for online marketing. The publishing industry must recognize the weight of authority that brand ambassadors will carry online, win their hearts and minds with strong material and appreciate that the digital swipe truly is the best way to turn the page.