iPads and Digital Editions Continue to Decline

deaddigitalFor the fifth quarter in a row, Apple has reported declining iPad sales. And according to D. B. Hebbard in Talking New Media, the real issue isn’t necessarily the decline in the tablets themselves.

“There are a lot of reasons for the decline, the longer upgrade cycle being probably the biggest,” Hebbard writers. “But the real question involves whether it is really important to publishers that iPad sales continue to grow. Many publishers think the future is not with the tablet but with mobile, and so falling sales only reinforce that conclusion.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook admits that mobile is likely cutting into their iPad line, saying “We’re clearly seeing cannibalization from iPhone and on the other side, from the Mac.”

Hebbard points out that an interesting shift has happened in the conversations surrounding tablet sales and digital magazine editions.

“For the first year or two after the introduction of the iPad the question most often posed to me was about market penetration of the iPad. Publishers wanted to know if there were simply enough tablets out there to make it worth investing in an app,” he writes.

“Today, with the Newsstand a mess, and no indication being given that Apple intends to fix it, the focus has changed. If Apple won’t support its own digital newsstand, why should publishers?” Hebbard asks.

It’s a valid question.

The platform won’t be going away, as Hebbard rightly notes; there is value to be found by publishers in digital distribution of magazine content. Still, as Hebbard concludes, “it does appear that major print publishers are seeing their digital editions much like Apple sees the iPad: as an increasingly minor part of their overall publishing strategy.”