Kindle: Can it save newspapers?
On Wednesday Amazon announced the newest version of it’s ebook reader, the Kindle DX. Taking the second generation’s improved design and increasing the screen size to 9.7” Amazon has targetted newspaper and textbook readers.
To complement this Amazon announced partnerships with the New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe. Kindle owners can pay for subscriptions to the newspapers’ content, which is instantly and discretely downloaded to the device via an over-the-air network Amazon calls “Whispernet”.
Amazon also announced special deals with several University text book publishers and thousands of books, often weighing a considerable amount, will be available on the device which weighs just over 500g.
The problem is, for all the convenience and elegance of the device, it costs $500. There’s very little economic incentive for students to adopt the device when they may only need $100 in text books, which are relatively easy to sell back when finished with. Newspaper readers can either pick up an inexpensive newspaper from a newstand/newsagent or in many cases access identical articles online, for free.
For the device to be a success Amazon needs to work on subsidy deals with content providers or academic institutions. If the device cost $150 or £100 many people would be keen to pick one up and I think a subscription cost of around £10 a month for a newspaper is not a lot to ask, especially for ad-free quality content.
Undoubtedly, the price will come down as time goes by and component prices fall but it needs to happen sooner rather than later. Rupert Murdoch yesterday called for an end to free online content from newspapers, and while he’s a hard character to warm to he makes a valid point. Ad revenues for online content are just not enough, and are not a sustainable model for the newspaper business. One doesn’t tear out the ads from a physical newspaper but it’s relatively easy to do that online with utlities such as AdBlock Plus for Firefox.
Quality journalism should be paid for. The question is whether it’s too late for media outlets to start charging for their content, but a device like the Kindle could be just the device to change people’s ideas of how they access written news. Just make it cheaper, and available to the UK please Amazon.