Delusional Hearst CEO claims dull print replicas beat interactive e-magazines

Duncan Edwards, the CEO of Hearst Magazines International, was speaking at The World e-Reading Congress in London today. Offering his take on a number of subjects concerning digital magazines and newspapers, Edwards shared candid words for the iPad and Apple’s contributions to mainstreaming e-publications on smartphones and tablets.

Surprisingly, Edwards doesn’t think interactive content is the way to go. Instead, consumers are better served with boring digital replicas of static print content, he said.

I’m not sure I agree. Being a print die-hard, Edwards was probably trying to make the case for a single common denominator concerning digital publishing. After all, creating interactive content tailored for the iPad requires focus on excellence and admittedly costs more compared to simply converting print files using Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite, which also received an update at today’s event…

Edwards reinforced his notion by saying Hearst created a software development division called App Lab, charged with repackaging print content in a way that can be easily displayed across different tablet brands.

While such an approach lets Hearst rapidly develop digital content, it neglects each platform’s specific advantages, potentially resulting in a sub-optimal experience.

Edwards noted that digital publishing is still a niche business, moving approximately 600,000 digital copies a month versus a whopping 22 million print sales. Note to Hearst: Perhaps the tide would turn if your digital magazines were a little more engaging and a lot less expensive.

According to TabTimes, the iPad is the favorite e-reading device for Hearst digital subscribers (35 percent), followed by Barnes & Noble’s Nook (30 percent), Zinio (20 percent) and Amazon (15 percent). Note that Zinio works across platforms and it’s also available on iOS.

Here’s his take on the iPad:

You have to admire Apple for a brilliant conceived strategy, and when we first saw the iPad, it was clear it was going to be a success.

As for re-imagining digital magazines:

People thought we’d reimagine the magazines to take advantage of the technology behind the device, but consumers prefer this replica version, and in reality we’re much better at doing this.

He also noted that Apple needs to change its approach to geographical pricing “because it doesn’t charge the same for its product overseas”.

I’m sure our international readers are with Edwards on this one.

I’ve been hearing lots of complaints from my friends who can’t quite fathom why international iTunes stores charge higher prices for music, movies, apps and other digital content versus the United States store.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also touched on the subject of price discrimination, calling Apple’s practice “horrible” in a recent interview with Australian radio station ABC Radio Sydney.

Underscoring how companies “shouldn’t have boundaries between countries”, especially now they can ”ship anything anywhere in the world for almost nothing”, Wozniak said, according to The Next Web:

The large duties in Australia I’m sure I would not favour. Maybe […] people are very happy and feel very well off because of the protections but I just think it’s horrible.

Case in point: due to import duties, an unlocked iPhone 4S that costs $649 in the United States will set you back A$799 in Australia, or approximately $154 more.

An even more drastic example includes Brazil and India, homes to the most expensive iPhones in the world, the irony being that an unknown portion of iPhones are now being assembled in Brazil.

The same goes for digital content prices in iTunes stores, though that’s not Apple’s fault as each country has its own taxes and laws governing digital sales that Apple must follow.

Exorbitant prices on European iTunes stores made me switch to the US store.

If you live outside of the United States, check out our handy guide to creating a US App Store account which lets you download free apps that may not be offered on your country’s App Store.