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Publishers and brands are falling all over themselves to create products for the iPad. Considering that the new device is seen as a potential savior for paid content, that makes sense. But is the iPad ready to deliver on that promise? So far iPad users are purchasing content from the iTunes store. But they're also swiping free stuff.

For brands looking to invest in developing paid products for the new device, that money might be best spent elsewhere.

How about those paid apps that publishers are so excited about? It's been six weeks since the iPad officially launched, and publishers are being cagey about sales. But today it came out that Conde Nast's app for GQ sold only 365 copies. Considering how many brands are contemplating devoting resources to iPad-specific development rather than simply translating their print products to the device, that could be a bit worrisome.

Of course, the novelty of the device could account for slow app sales. And iPad sales are quickly increasing. But are customers going to be as willing to fork over for content in this new iPad friendly space? Maybe not.

There are applications that are performing very well on the device. But as Mashable points out, they're free:

"ABC announced that its app has been downloaded more than 200,000 times, and earlier this month Rupert Murdoch revealed that the WSJ app has roughly 64,000 subscribers. Both of these apps, however, are free."

And according to The Unofficial Apple Weblog, iPad users seem pretty willing to pirate content for their new toys:

"In the week following the launch of the iPad, six of the top ten selling business-related paperbacks saw a significant spike in unauthorized downloads on BitTorrent, according to BitTorrent news blog TorrentFreak. This cohort saw average increases of 78 percent over the week prior to the iPad launch. While this data may suggest the onset of an eBook piracy revolution, such a coup is still a long ways away."

TorrentFreak chose to follow the piracy of business e-books because that topic fits the interests of the current iPad buying demographic. While not a comprehensive study, it is interesting to consider that iPad owners — who were quick to fork over for a new digital device, are using it to get themselves free copies of books they either weren't reading before or that they used to paid for.

It could simply mean that consumers inclined to pirate e-books are reading more on their iPads. But that's further proof that while a mobile tablet might promote more digital reading, it may not encourage people to pay for that content.

That said, as Peter Kafka at MediaMemo points out, there are still plenty of branding opportunities in the space:

"Needle mover? Nope. But Condé also gets the chance to sell some advertisers the right to be a premium app sponsor, so the dollars could pile up, eventually."

Meghan Keane

Published 18 May, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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