A Steve Tax for the news biz? I sold my iPad for another reason—but the tax won’t help

New iPad paper has wow factor

Rupert Murdoch’se iPad newspaper launched Wednesday, and judging from a YouTube, it has its share of knock-your-socks-off features—it can even read news to you. But for now at least, you won’t find me among the subscribers.

I sold my iPad before prices dropped too much more as owners unloaded their machines to finance their iPad 2s. I’ll just rely on my little iPod Touch at present to keep up with the Apple world.

Herotab MID816

Perhaps I’ll end up with an iPad 2, very soon for professional reasons: the hands-on stuff and all that. Also, I love the iPad’s ergonomics.

But philosophically I’m much more comfortable with Android tablets—the  second YouTube shows the one on the way to me—without the Steve Tax built in. Check out Slate’s “Ditch the App store” piece for the details on Apple’s moves at the expense of book publishers and presumably others. Would you believe, Apple’s store typically wants 30 percent of subscription revenues and even is creating complications for printed editions of newspapers and magazines?  Apple in effect is insisting that print subscribers pay for digital editions, not get them as free bonuses.

Most book publishers may have no choice but to deal with Apple, Amazon and the rest since book-buyers are accustomed to stores, and in fact, in a book business context, the 30 percent doesn’t seem so evil—but remember, the iPad is really a computer, not a store, and that the 30 percent should be going to actual e-bookstores, not Apple.

But back to newspapers and magazines. Should they give Steve 30 percent rather than just selling to people who already know their Web addresses and don’t need a store to get them to virtually plunk down their cash? Time to steer people instead to tablet using the Android operating system?

Android is hardly a completely open system, of course, and I wish that so many of the Android software apps didn’t require you to go to Google’s app store, which isn’t usable by owners of many inexpensive tablets, including the cheapie Android tablet I now own. Still, this is better than as tollgate-ridden an approach as the iPad’s. If newspapers find they must charge for news—as a reader I’d prefer the ad-supported model—why should Steve stick himself in the middle?

Hey, nothing against Jobs personally; in fact, he’s taking medical leave, and I wish him only the best of luck with his health. The worst of luck, however, with that 30 percent plan! If Steve Jobs insists on inflicting it on publishers, then maybe, just maybe, I will go iPadless for real.

Disclosure: I’m a small long-term investor in Google, although, as I’ve noted before, you’d never know it from my feelings about the proposed Google Book settlement.

Updated details on the MID816: Slatetoid Web site posting and related YouTube. A Herotab-related forum is here. Price of the tablet during a sale at one store is around $206 and shipping, etc. (not necessarily the lowest). This Chinese machine is not for the general consumer—too many Android details to worry about—but easier-to-use Android machines with an improved operating system are coming inevitably. Alas,  the new Honeycomb version still is lacking in that respect if you go by some reviews.

The inevitable question: I’d rather be using an American-made machine, of course, but our hardware-related manufacturing capabilities have declined to the point where I could not find an affordable tablet fitting my requirements. Keep in mind that devices like the Kindle and iPad are made in China anyway—my purchase of the Herotab will simply eliminate the domestic markup.

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David Rothman

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