Safari Reader has been out for awhile. Some of the dust has settled, and Apple has tweaked the product a bit since it was initially rolled out in Safari 5.
As the owner of a publishing company, I have some problems with Safari Reader. They run deeper than profit motives however.
First, Safari Reader bypasses the web developer’s design process. Essentially, it would be as if Jonathan Ivy walked into Ford and said “I don’t own a share of your stock, but here’s how your cars are going to look from now on.” If you were running Ford, you probably wouldn’t be happy about that notion.
There is, of course, user choice. There’s nothing stopping you from copying and pasting an article into
Word Pages and formatting the article any way you want. The issue is, most people don’t do that. Just like most people say they don’t like online advertising… but click on the ads anyways.
Unlike traditional media, where if you DVR through the ads… we don’t get paid if people don’t view them. With Safari Reader, the amount of people that clicks through ads (which determines what our ad space is worth) will fall. It’s simply a matter of how much it will fall.
Safari Reader I suspect will eventually give way to allowing web developers to generate iOS-friendly layouts, defined by an alternative formatting that will play with all Apple platforms, scaling from iPod touch to Apple TV, and all the Macs in-between.
Web developers will love the idea, because it will give them the ability to run iAds and better mobilize their content… while taking advantage of Apple’s app platform, giving them the same presence on App Store as the app developers have. If you were wondering how pay-for-content was going to hit the App Store, I believe Safari Reader is the harbinger of things to come.
And Apple will also get to boast that it’s all being done in open HTML5. Which it will undoubtedly be, just in their marketplace.
Hence, why I do like Safari Reader and why I don’t. Today, it’s not the best thing for publishers. However, it’s also a part of how Apple likely intends to scale and offer a content marketplace for publishers. The real question will be, how in the world are independent publishers going to have a fair fight against heavyweights?