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Magazine publishers joining together for iTunes-like magazine store


The New York Observer is reporting that Time, Inc. executive VP John Squires has been making the rounds of other major publishing houses lately with one thing in mind: creating an iTunes-like magazine store for digital distribution of their titles. At this time, it appears that Time, Inc., Condé Nast, and Hearst are all planning on joining the alliance, with over 50 top magazines that would for sale in the store. Those titles include Sports Illustrated, Time, People, The New Yorker, Vogue, and O, The Oprah Magazine.

The as-yet-unnamed store doesn't plan on adding a new reader device to the mix. Instead, the consortium is looking at ways to distribute content to existing platforms such as the iPhone, Kindle, nook, BlackBerry, and the major computer operating systems. Reading the post, it seems to this writer that although Squires and Co. have a great idea, the execution of the plan might be doomed already. Quoting from the Observer article:

The deal is taking time to complete because it involves so many moving pieces.

"It's pretty complicated stuff," said a source. "The really, really hard part is that you've got so many different kinds of devices running on different operating systems. And how do you handle that? The consortium provides one point of contact for the consumer. When you come to the main store, you can get the content any way you want."

In addition to building up the store, each publisher will actually have to figure out how to build digital versions of their own magazines.

Squires is also quoted as saying:

"With magazines, the form has to change," he continued. "All I'm saying is that there are ways to design magazines differently for that kind of experience that'll be attractive and will feel different to a consumer."
Sounds pretty vague, doesn't it? Of course, part of this is probably deliberate, in order to maintain a veil of secrecy over their plans, but it also seems to me that they're not exactly sure what the "new design" will entail or how to distribute the content to all of the different platforms.

One of the recurring markets for Apple's fabled iTablet is digital publishing, and many pundits have speculated that Apple would expand the existing iTunes Store to sell ebooks and magazines. If Apple and the new magazine store both appear in 2010, this could be a clash of the titans that spells doom for dead-tree editions of popular magazines. It could also mean that one of the two titans goes home empty-handed after the fight. Whatever happens next year in terms of electronic publishing, it's going to be a battle that will shape the publishing industry for the foreseeable future.

[via Mac Rumors]

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