Technology

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Mark Lennihan/AP
The Kindle DX

Can the Kindle DX Save the Newspaper Industry?

May 06, 2009 06:30 PM
by Liz Colville
With the announcement of Amazon’s newest version of its reader, a rumored e-reader from Apple called the iPad and others on the horizon, newspapers search for a lifeline.

Kindle DX Supersizes Popular E-Reader

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The unveiling of the Kindle DX on May 6 appears to herald a new era for e-readers, making it easier to enjoy larger print media like textbooks, magazines and newspapers. Like its smaller counterpart, the Kindle DX is as thin as a magazine. It can hold 3,500 books and runs on both wireless networks and Sprint’s 3G network. The price: $489.
Kindle DX sales will no doubt be bolstered by past support from people like Oprah Winfrey, “whose influence in the publishing world is immense,” CNN noted in 2008. The original Kindle has “also been embraced by some prominent writers, including Nobel laureate Toni Morrison and best-selling thriller author James Patterson.” Although figures on the original Kindle have never been released, estimates put it on a level with Apple’s iPod in terms of early sales.

The Kindle and Kindle 2, released early this year, have certainly helped the book publishing industry, though Farhad Manjoo in Slate recently questioned whether the Kindle isn’t being overly restrictive of book lovers and creating a monopoly to which book publishers are beholden. Manjoo may not have considered the likelihood of an Apple foray into the e-reader market, a rumor that is now coming to fruition.
How the Kindle DX and the Apple competitor, slated to be called iPad, will help the newspaper industry is a more complex question. Could the readers serve up ads? Will Amazon’s share of the revenue leave enough of a profit for newspapers? Reuters suggests that e-readers designed specifically for newspaper reading could be more promising. U.S.-based Plastic Logic is working on one set for release in 2010, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has allegedly invested in one, too.

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Opinion & Analysis: Will e-readers save or kill newspapers?

E-readers won’t likely save the newspaper industry because “we have too many ways to get our information for free,” says Melissa Perenson in PC World. “[A]s a Kindle owner I can't justify paying $14 a month for an electronic version of The New York Times delivered to my e-reader.”

But if The New York Times and other newspapers make their content exclusively subscription-only, it could be more appealing to subscribers to read it on an e-reader than on a computer. Perenson says she “can see the appeal of digital version of newspapers pushed to a device.”

But users like Perenson desire a lot from their e-readers. Prior to the DX’s release, Perenson’s “wish list” included a lot of customization features. “I want to be able to customize the types of stories I see and the frequency with which they're sent. I want to be able to clip and save stories for posterity.” If e-readers are going to charge users to read newspapers and magazines, they will likely have to address such demands.

They could be addressed in another device: Apple’s iPad, which will likely be unveiled this summer. Bridging the gap between e-reader and notebook, the iPad will no doubt harness the sophisticated multi-touch technology and color screen of the iPhone, but be bigger and friendlier to fans of e-readers.

If the iPad is unveiled as promised, the Kindle DX and others like it are “doomed,” writes PC Magazine’s Sascha Segan. “In exchange for your monthly contract, the iPad will give you the whole Internet, and 35,000 iPod touch applications, including—get this!—the Amazon Kindle application.”

The iPad and others may help create more of an open market for e-books and other e-media, which Manjoo advocates in Slate. But unlike books, largely seen as “sharable,” newspapers are either affordable or free, and thus don’t need to be shared. This has pros and cons when translated to the e-reader realm. It may be a challenge for newspaper publishers to change the common consensus that newspapers are affordable in print form and—more importantly—cost nothing online.

But the nature of e-readers—they provide a personalized, portable and more focused user experience—could end up giving newspaper publishers a more profitable chance to “hit the reset button” and return to their old business model, as Brad Stone suggests in The New York Times. A subscription, which seems intolerable on the Web, could seem more reasonable on an e-reader, as PC World’s Perenson allowed.

Reference: Books Web Guide

Find quality sites to guide you to books, e-books and ways to further your interest in reading and publishing with the findingDulcinea Books Web Guide.
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