Tech Desk

From the Tech Desk

Can Independent Publishers Make Use of the Apple Watch?

Apple's long-awaited smart watch is finally on the market—though you wouldn't know it by going into an Apple Store or trying to shop online. Sure, you can try on the flashy new device in one of Apple's retail establishments, or place an order for one online, but inventory is so in-demand that the device is back-ordered until June. In other words, unless you ordered one of these bad boys when they first went on sale on April 10th, you're not actually going to own one until June.

What does any of this mean for independent publishers? Well, it signifies that a lot of people are interested in Apple's latest gadget, for one thing, which in turn means that there is a new channel available for reaching readers. The question is this: how can publishers make use of the Apple Watch? How can this new device help to further elevate the concept of digital book publishing, similarly to how the iPad did before it?

The answers to those questions are certainly a bit cloudy at this point. For one thing, we are still in the earliest stages of this new device. Many mobile app developers haven't even figured out what to do with the Apple Watch yet, and most of them don't face challenges as substantial as what the publishing world is facing. The issue is that eBooks simply don't transfer well to the new miniscule screen of Apple's smart watch. Most readers are perfectly content reading on a full-sized iPad or Kindle; fewer readers are willing to read eBooks on their smartphones. In other words, you can bet that almost no one is going to be interested in trying to read an entire novel on the Apple Watch's 42mm display.

But if we aren't going to start porting epub files over to the Apple Watch, does that mean that publishers—major or independent—should give up on the device? Judging by how in-demand the Apple Watch is right now, no. While not everyone will be interested in a smart watch—not everyone is sold on the concept of wearable technology, period—the Apple Watch still has the potential to change the dynamic of the mobile landscape forever. Precisely what sort of shifts it will or could bring about is tough to predict a week after the product's release. The bottom line, though, is that publishers would be remiss to pretend like the technology doesn't matter.

So how can independent publishers make use of the Apple Watch? Here are a couple of ideas, straight from the tech desk!

Increased Social Media Interaction

Apple has repeatedly touted the Apple Watch as their most personal device ever. In part, that's because it's always there. Many of us are more or less attached to our smartphones these days, but there are still times where it's not a good idea to look at your phone: during dinner with the family, while driving, at work or school, etc.

With the Apple Watch, though, users can stay connected all time just by glancing down at their wrist. It's a dream scenario for social media, which has been advocating short, snappy communication since the advent of Twitter. Users of the Apple Watch will find it easier than ever before to stay engaged on social networks, and that means social media is in turn going to become an even bigger aspect of marketing and selling books. As such, authors and publishers that are very active on networks like Twitter are going to be the ones captivating the Apple Watch audience.


A New Approach to Selling eBooks

Just because no one is going to be reading eBooks on the Apple Watch doesn't mean that the device can't be used to boost sales. One thing the watch is going to do is make users less reliant on their phones or tablets. When an Apple Watch is right there on your wrist, it's going to be your first stop for social media and other day-to-day information like weather, scheduling, and even news. That's right: according to Ad Age, news outlets like The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post are all building Apple Watch apps that will deliver one-sentence news stories.

Publishers might be able to take a similar idea and turn it into a means for selling eBooks. Imagine an Apple Watch-optimized bookstore, made up of quick blurbs, info sheets, or descriptions of books. Readers could browse books just by swiping, and download titles with a tap or two on their wrist. Then, with Bluetooth, it could be possible for Apple Watch users to quickly transfer their purchases from the watch right over to a phone or tablet. Granted, an idea like this would probably only work with Apple's ecosystem of devices, but it's still a way that publishers might be able to make the simplicity and convenience of the Apple Watch work for them.

It's unclear at this point whether Apple's new smart watch will become as popular or commonplace as the iPhone or iPad. If there's one company that you can count on to have that level of influence, though, it's Apple. And if the Apple Watch is going to reach that level, then publishers are going to have to figure out ways to use the new technology to their advantage. The ideas above are just a few basic proposals, so free to share your own concepts in the comments section!

Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at