iBooks: Cellular’s Big Bang?

Posted by Sam Churchill on

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 Sunday, January 22nd, 2012 at 12:54 pm .

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