They apparently imagine themselves as the rebel alliance in Star Wars, and Steve Jobs as Darth Vader, these publishers quoted in Ad Age. And they're determined to escape the iTunes Store tractor beam, a gorgeous Apple tablet notwithstanding.
As our colleague Brian Lam at Gizmodo has reported, Apple — and presumably CEO Jobs — is trying to woo magazine, newspaper and texbook publishers to provide content for Apple's forthcoming tablet device, rumored to resemble an overgrown iPhone. It must have been humbling for magazine publishers, a notoriously egotistical bunch, to be summoned to Apple's Cupertino campus to submit their vision of the future to Jobs, as Lam reported.
So it's not entirely surprising that a backlash is said to be forming. Here's how one newspaper executive described Jobs and his previous iTunes Store deals, in Ad Age: "People put their hands out and let him put the handcuffs on them... The same thing now is happening with the publishing industry. They are afraid to do anything, to say anything. At the same time, they're saying, 'Let's see what other options we have.'"
The dissident publishers are talking about putting their own storefront app on the tablet, selling content from all the different publishing companies, according to Ad Age. That way, their thinking goes, the content doesn't become a "commodity" eclipsed by the device, as happened with Apple's music store and iPod.
Never mind that the iTunes Store has provided the only significant source of digital revenue for the struggling record labels, and became the largest single music retailer in the U.S. this year, according to an NPD estimate, moving 25 percent of units and turning about 70 percent of the gross proceeds over to content creators.
It's entirely likely print publishers will be able to create their own Apple tablet storefront if that's what they decide to do. After all, Apple recently enabled the selling of content within iPhone Apps, and there's no reason to think the situation wouldn't be the same on an iPhone-like tablet, particularly with Apple under government scrutiny about apps it vetoes.
But withholding print content from Apple's own store would be like the self-destructive act of a petulant, confused teenager. Consumers are already running searchers within the iTunes Store for music, movies, TV shows, e-books, audio books and other media; if newspaper and magazine publishers are in the mix, they get the chance to sell related content in the search results. Assuming a reasonable revenue split can be reached, why wouldn't publishers want to be where the media consumers already are? It's not like they've been irrationally lashing out at the internet lately. (Ahem.)