iBooks: Cellular’s Big Bang?

Apple’s eTextbook rollout last Thursday was exciting. But what Apple didn’t mention was the huge file sizes of their multi-media iBooks — from 800MB to 2.77GB each. A biology textbook from McGraw-Hill contains 1,906 print pages and weighs in at 1.49 GB, while a competing Biology textbook from Pearson with 1,791 pages is 2.77 GB. Their size will make downloading over cellular networks impractical.

WiFi is the only practical wireless delivery method.

Consider a 1GB daily newspaper. That’s 30 GB a month. WAY over the 5-10 GB/monthly cap of ANY data plan.

Too bad. Apple’s iBooks can combine the subscription model and display advertising of newspapers and magazines with the multi-media capability of the web – all in a portable device you can read anywhere.

Mass-media must be delivered free – like radio or television. A daily 1-GB media fix could run up a $200/month overage fee. Nobody needs that. The 1% paying $80+/month are mostly irrelevant for advertisers.

Advertisers covet the beautiful, interactive display ads — but they need eyeballs.

Newspapers, magazines and (cable) television get about half their revenue from subscriptions and half from ads. E-Books can be portable and media-rich, but require a cost/effective delivery mechanism when WiFi is not available. Cellular won’t do it.

Qualcomm’s MediaFLO was one solution. But it was premature and carriers didn’t benefit (much) if they included a mobile tv tuner in their devices. It was never free.

Now, of course, AT&T has killed off MediaFLO spectrum at 700 MHz.

That leaves broadcast television. ATSC M/H is the U.S. mobile television standard. It’s free. A 50,000 watt transmitter, broadcasting a payload of iNewspapers and iMagazines might deliver the goods to a million people – simultaneously – overnight.

If I were Rupert Murdock, USA Today, or a newspaper chain, I’d do a deal with the 4th or 5th largest local station in the top 100 markets for overnight delivery.

Soon, ePub-3 support may enable cross-platform compatibility and incorporate many of the features seen on Apple’s new iBooks Author. E-Pub3 readers – much like the free Nook Reader application for mobile devices and desktops – which supports ePub-2 – could soon support rich media and fancy layout control with ePub-3.

EPUB-3 will deliver 1st class catalogs, magazines and newspapers — but it needs to be cheaper than 3rd class mail. Under $.25 – not $10 a GB. Big media files also imply some kind of ancillary cloud storage mechanism, since most tablets have only 8-32 GB of on-board storage.

That’s why media companies and high tech companies – companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft – may soon become involved in spectrum. But ATSC M/H technology faces a self-important NAB and mobile carriers that resist TV tuners.

Content and technology companies will be left with one option: spectrum buys.

LTE-A, incorporating multicasting over neighborhood towers in the early morning hours, will be the delivery mechanism of choice for rich-media publications.

The action will play out on White Spaces, 2.1 GHz MSS, and 2.6 GHz. Expect drama at Mobile World Congress next month.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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