The Paperback of Tablets (September 2 Amazon makes me look good)

Note:  Amazon is coming out with a 7 inch tablet that promises to revolutionize…Check it out

The seven-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad.

Steve Jobs, Apples Earnings Call, October 18, 2010

I love Apple.  Steve Jobs inspires me.   I am not alone in these two sentiments.  My devotion to Apple and the creative genius of Mr. Jobs does not extend to the 7 inch tablet.  Here they simply lack vision.

Apple will regret their failure to develop a 7 inch tablet.  This decision provides an opportunity for a smart and clever competitor.  It is an opportunity to develop the digital paperback to Apple’s digital hardcover.  A new paperback revolution for digital times.

When we look back at the history of publishing some simple lessons standout.  Ownership of books was for the wealthy, so information remained in their hands.  Paperbacks changed all that by making books cheap and portable (The Paperbacking of America).

The publishing of paperbacks began in earnest during the 1930’s.  At that moment, publishers like Penguin turned book borrowers into book buyers.

“I would be the first to admit that there is no fortune in this series for anyone concerned, but if my premises are correct and these Penguins are the means of converting book-borrowers into book-buyers, I shall feel that I have added some small quota to the sum of those who during the last few years have worked for the popularization of the book-shop and the increased sale of books.”

Allen Lane, All About Penguin Books, The Bookseller, May 22, 1935

Allen Lane was the thought leader who established Penguin as the premier publisher of paperbacks, and ignited a revolution in mass market purchasing of books.  describes it this way…

Paperbacks changed all that, making books available in every train station, five-and-dime, and drugstore in the nation. Traditional bookstores initially resisted stocking paperbacks at all, not seeing the sense in underselling their own more expensive stock (just as most bookstores today stock new or used books, but not both). At first, bookstores would add a “paperback corner” or other small selection of the new kind of book, but soon economic demand overwhelmed snobbery and paperbacks came to dominate the literary marketplace.

This cheaper and more portable form factor took information from the distance of the library to the intimacy of the coffee table.   During the 1960’s cultural transformation, much of the great yet controversial writing of the time, relied on the less traditional publishers of paperbacks to spread their message.  Indeed it was true, “economic demand overwhelmed snobbery”, and the paperback helped change America.

The same snobbery that existed toward the paperback, can now be found in attitudes toward anything not IPad.  This includes most of all the 7 inch tablet, and yet I believe this tablet is the paperback of our time…the digital paperback.

While an argument can be made that the smartphone is the ultimate digital paperback, it is my belief that the screen real estate it provides is too small.  The increased screen real estate of the 7 inch tablet provides visual comfort in a lightweight and portable package.  You can do almost everything you would do with the larger tablets without the obtrusive size.

Which Apple competitor understands all this and more?  Which CEO among Apple competitors has an Allen Lane like understanding of the mass market?  Which Apple competitor in choosing to create their first device selected a screen of 6 inches?

The answer to all of the above is Amazon, and they are my choice for revolutionizing the tablet market.

While their first tablet may be a 9 inch, in time I look to Amazon to release a 7 inch, and if they fail to do it, then the opportunity for victory will fall to HTC or Barnes and Nobles.

The 7 inch tablet will survive and thrive, and Apple may pay severely if they ignore this truth.