Was it Steve Jobs’ literally dying wish to upend another lazy industry – science and academic publishing? We’ll know more this Thursday

With Macworld just around the corner, I am tweaking my workshop presentation for January 25. By that time, we will know more about Apple’s publishing keynote to be held this Thursday and whether yet another industry – publishing, especially academic and scholarly – will be disrupted by Apple technologies.

Some time back I wrote about this possibility here on this blog:

Click on the screenshot to go to the blog entry

Notice, will you, the date of this entry: January 7, 2010. The iPad 1 keynote was held on January 27, almost three weeks later, so at the time of writing we were still in the “tablet rumour” phase of iPad’s release.

But it seemed so certain that a tablet was on its way – although up to the day before no one guessed its name – that bloggers like me were already envisioning what its release would mean. For consumers and various industries too, such as publishing.

In my blog entry, this is what I wrote about scholarly publishing:

“Well, I’m saying the same thing to Steve Jobs: “Steve, mate, help science along by luring the publishing world in with a tablet as a lifeline to a dying industry, then grab them by the short and curlies like you did with the music industry!”

What I was referring to was the outlandish price of academic texts, both in book form, as well as downloadable articles for which the major publishing houses still charge anywhere between $25 and $35 for a PDF of perhaps only a few pages.

It’s wild-eyed pricing, given there are so many ways to obtain the same article, from writing directly to the lead author, going to their academic website where their publications are often listed for download, asking a friend with an academic position to get it for you, or using a search engine to eventually locate it. I would say 90% of the time I am successful with one of these methods within a few hours. Remember too, that authors get no royalties, and in some cases are prohibited from distributing their own published work as a condition of being published in a prestigious journal.

The other idea not unique to my thinking when contemplating the Apple tablet was self-publication, something which has been hinted at being included on Thursday, and for which Apple tools, like Pages, already exist, partially.

It seems the iPad is ideal for turning academic texts on their heads, including highly engaging visuals in enhanced versions. Late last year, I bought on iBooks an enhanced book about the dog, Rin Tin Tin, by Susan Orleans.

Note in the screenshot, below, both the book’s cover, and the list of videos within the book’s “covers” (page 14):

Cover and list of chapters

And if you go to Page 14, you’ll see the video listings:

List of Videos in Susan Orlean's Rin Tin Tin

And finally, without showing the movie in action, this is what it looks like, embedded, bearing in mind you can make the video full screen, as well as play it through Airplay to a monitor:

(UPDATE: My colleague Anthony Caruana asks about keeping open multiple books when say working on essays, as one does in analogue format. My response is that a beefed up iPad 3 may allow more multitasking, so that you can have multiple books open “behind” each other, and using an Misson Control-like  spread of the fingers, all the books can be seen, much like you can see all the apps or docs when using Mac OS X (below):

Hold the icon down in the Dock, and Show All Windows

Moreover, by using the iPad’s screenshot capabilities you can, as I have above, copy and paste in quotations from sources, to show you actually obtained them, rather than requoting from another source without sighting the original.)

I expect we may see a beefed up Pages announced on Thursday to assist the self-publishing process beyond its current format, and if that is the case, perhaps a reworked iWork 12 too – although it’s tiring to keep flogging a near moribund horse. Who knows, perhaps a new app. to be added to the iWork coterie.

Creating an ePub in Pages is very limited, and indeed you cannot use the professionally created page layout templates Pages comes with to create an ePub. See below:

You can create a vanilla style document and insert video into it, and it will export to ePub format for transfer to an iDevice, like an iPad, using the word processor templates:

While you only see a still image, above, it’s actually a movie file I created for last year’s Macworld (Keynote on the iPad).

But that’s all well and good for private use and sharing. But what if I want to use Keynote and Pages to make a book for sale, perhaps starting with Presentation Magic using Keynote with all the effects and tutorials from my workshops? Rather than have handouts using lots of trees at workshops, why not gift my book for iPads and iPhones so that workshop attendees can either follow along (not my preferred option) or review the workshop afterwards with all the techniques I used explained and illustrated in much more detail?

And of course, the book is for sale on iBooks for a nominal price. Doesn’t this take self-publication to a whole new level? Yes, and like so many things Apple does, it’s been done before, but not this way and not this easily.

The next step is to take on the webinar, online training and Continuing Professional Education fields, which is worth billions.

Using the same tools authors use for their daily work, users could easily take their presentations and workshops and rework them for sale later without the extra expensive outside contractors needed to do it currently. Go and take a look at my APEX presentation of September 12, 2011, which I blogged about here.

The video I mention which is on YouTube was created using Keynote for the slides and presentation, my iPhone 4 to record the video and audio, and ScreenFlow to assemble the exported Keynote slides as a video and the iPhone output into a YouTube video.

This was a one person operation using inexpensive software, which easily lends itself to self-publishing workshops, and which can be value-added with an enhanced book for sale on iBooks Scholar (I just named it that). Perhaps Apple will release more tools for self-publishing a la Garageband integrating the output of Keynote, Pages and iMovie and then uploading them, like a podcast to iTunes University or the iBooks store.

The time is surely right to take on the world of science publishing, and I’m of the belief that this was in fact literally Steve Jobs’ dying wish – to disintermediate another industry which has become lazy and lacked innovation because no one dared stand up to it, much less the scientists who grasp the publishing industry’s teets for their tenured lives.

Publishing on Thursday and Television later in the year: it’s going to be a very interesting year in the science and creative arts in 2012.

[UPDATE: The website, 9-5Mac, reports an interesting juxtaposition occurring. An entry, without naming its author, suggests that Apple’s iWork Vice-President, Roger Rosner, has been transferred and “will be heading up the development of Apple’s entry into the textbook market.”

This is under Apple Senior VP, Eddy Cue, whose presenting style in Apple keynotes I’m no great fan of, but he is one heck of a smart operator, recently promoted, and I believe mentored by Steve Jobs, especially during the iTunes music rollout.

What this means for iWork is open for speculation. Will it mean tighter integration between iWork and Apple’s efforts to bring self-publishing tools to the marketplace in the form of Pages 5 (or iWork 12) or a new application, as suggested in my main blog entry, above? And what of Keynote? Abandoned or beefed up to to assist the creative aspects of self-publishing enhanced books, with audio, video and embedded animations, especially in textbooks?]

2 responses to “Was it Steve Jobs’ literally dying wish to upend another lazy industry – science and academic publishing? We’ll know more this Thursday

  1. As a technician for years (BS in ’78) and working toward a PhD at a major midwestern university, I am very appreciative of the capabilities modern computer technology makes available, and appalled at the roadblocks put up and the cash extorted by some of the biggest scientific publishers (having initials T-R and E). Our university is fortunate to have the clout and the cash to license access to most journals, and to pool their print collections with other universities for back print issues. Friends at smaller institutions have difficulty accessing some of the important but expensive literature. In the majority of biobased materials literature, the authoring and editing is done for “free”, there are minimal advertising expenses, and the submission is all done electronically. All the publishing executives had to do was buy up the highest rated journals, jack up the price, and ride the gravy train. Why would they give it up, especially when a scientist’s performance is sometimes rated by the journal’s impact factor?

    I would be delighted to see a change in current practices. Personally, I don’t have a problem with the way PLoS (Public Library of Science) works (author pays page charges, unless they lack funds). Knowledge is power, best not to concentrate it in a few sets of hands.

  2. In his recent Google talk, Alton Brown described his desire to take his books to the iPad with multimedia integration; the question he raised is at what point does it stop being a “book” (even a multimedia one) and becomes an “app”? Apple could jump into this with a “super-Hypercard” and create yet another revolution.

    Some of the restrictions you allude to regarding Pages and ePub are limitations of the ePub format more than Pages. For scientific or technical material (say chemical formulas, math, or engineering diagrams where details are zoom-able) PDF is still the only reasonable format; but very bad with other types of content.


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