Publishers’ Joint Venture to Compete with Kindle

Discussion
Dec 09, 2009
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Magazine and newspaper publishers Conde Nast, Hearst,
Meredith, News Corp. and Time Inc. announced a joint venture to create open
standards for new electronic devices that display publications in color and
use video, games and social networking to create a superior experience to
existing e-readers, including Amazon.com’s Kindle.

“For
the consumer, this digital initiative will provide access to an extraordinary
selection of engaging content products, all customized for easy download on
the device of their choice, including smartphones, e-readers and laptops,”
said John Squires, the venture’s interim managing director. “Once purchased,
this content will be ‘unlocked’ for consumers to enjoy anywhere, anytime,
on any platform.”

Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp., has been public about
his unhappiness with the Kindle device. According to an Associated Press report,
Mr. Murdoch said, “Kindle is a fantastic invention for reading books. It is
not much of an experience for newspapers.”

Not everyone is sure that all
the bells and whistles promised by the publishers will make sense for consumers.
James McQuivey, a media and technology analyst with Forrester Research, told
the AP, “It takes more time to make that
kind of content in an environment where people are paying less.”

Sports Illustrated is providing a demo of the SI Tablet on its website.
(Click
to view…
)

Discussion
Questions: Will the new e-reader joint venture succeed? Where
do you see the line coming down between features such as color screen, video,
games, etc. and cost in the decision-making process for most consumers? How
do you think this new system will affect consumer advertising?

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10 Comments on "Publishers’ Joint Venture to Compete with Kindle"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

We are in the early stages of e-reader adoption. Fewer than 1% of the US population owns one of the devices. It is reasonable to expect that publishers would experiment with different formats to fit the devices and try to bend consumer demand to fit a format that best serves the publishers. After all, the same publishers are watching their revenues from print decline at precipitous rates.

The market place will sort out what consumers want and how much they are willing to pay for it.

Dick Seesel
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

E-reader technology is moving fast, and the overlap between devices like the Kindle and other “readers” like netbooks, smartphones, etc. gets narrower all the time. The group of newspaper and magazine publishers is making a questionable assumption about Amazon, that the technology behind the current-generation Kindle is as good as it gets.

This assumes that Amazon will not continue to enhance the reading experience by adding color, etc. I would not make this assumption, knowing that Amazon has never rested on its laurels when it sees an opportunity as well as emerging competition.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 4 months ago

Re: Kindle and books, not having read books in color since the 5th grade, I find myself in that camp that believes that black and white pages suffice for what I want from this Bells and Whistle World when reading a good book.

But when someone wants to know the thousands of other sound, silly, scandalous, salacious and sporty things going on around them then this e-reader joint venture could be in tune with these times of insatiable hunger to be cool and stay in touch with whatever. How large and affluent that audience is will determine its future.

James Tenser
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

I believe periodical publishers are on the right page when they advocate a common, open, e-reader standard that can support books, textbooks, magazines and newspapers.

Readers who are on the e-fence today are much more likely to acquire a device that is both flexible and future-proof. Web-connectivity is also important, as it can bring static texts to life. I can envision students carrying a library of textbooks, journal articles and class notes in a single, lightweight device.

The Sports Illustrated e-reader demo is worth a view, even as a proof-of-concept. But look also at the Times Reader, the well-designed online app for the New York Times.

It’s a fair bet that e-reader hardware costs will tend to come down for increased capabilities, just as we’ve seen with digital music players. No publisher will want to be excluded from offering its content, and no reader will want to carry multiple devices, so I’d anticipate movement toward a standard, and possibly some subsidy of the hardware costs for subscribers–the way cell phones are priced today.

Mark Burr
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

It may be way too early to tell on the ‘bells and whistles’ stuff. However, an open standards environment opens the option for a multi-use device and an open environment for consumers. As much as retailers might believe that readers would become intensely loyal to one source or compatibility for books, no one I know buys books from one single source.

Just as with the PC, people have options. That will likely be the same tack consumers will expect here, too. Even some apps for PC and Apple at some level are compatible. Thus, a more open environment is the thing here, far more than the bells and whistles.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 4 months ago

Netbooks seem to be getting smaller and faster while smartphone screens and interfaces are getting bigger and better. I’m wondering if e-readers are the hot trend for 09/10 and when customers realize they can read books on their smartphones and netbooks, will these e-readers end up stacked neatly next to Apple’s Newton?

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
11 years 4 months ago

The e-readers are demonstrating Moore’s law which, loosely interpreted, says that technological capability will, at a constant price, double every 18 months. The first e-readers, like the first PCs or cell phones were very basic. The Nook, and now the new tablet are simply building features and functionality.

Will they replace the Kindles? Who knows? Do we really think the the Kindle will stay the same? They are already on their second version. The readers themselves are merely platforms, which will change and evolve rapidly. The big news, as noted above is the open source. With this kind of richness, the migration to digital reading can only accelerate.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 4 months ago
Once the initial excitement over having the “new” thing wore off, a lot of people got sort of bored with their Kindles and recognized its limitations. Several avid book readers in my book group, for example, have gone back to reading the real thing and have in effect mothballed their Kindles except for certain situations. That said, the Kindle is a great start on a nascent, new technology with much potential. I expect consumers to pay substantial sums and have great interest in this type of device as it continues to morph in ways that better meet their needs and desires. I think the publishers are on the right track, here. Due to my business, I owned one of the first mobile phones to operate in the first commercial cell system in America. In just over 25 years it is absolutely incredible how the look, size and use of the “non landline” “phone” has evolved in both theory and practice. I see similar potential for e-reader technology. Will people use their baby notebooks and iPhones… Read more »
Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
11 years 4 months ago

For my money, definitely time to explore the next level of e-readers/applications. Convenience drives consumer choice in many of these technologies–is it easier to get, easier to use? Downloading magazines of all types makes sense to me–for air travel, to catch up on all the content, no hassle of actually purchasing, carrying…if it’s easier acquiring and then reading off a laptop, this new approach could be right on. An e-subscription services make sense; it is a better experience.

Rick Boretsky
Guest
Rick Boretsky
11 years 4 months ago

This is just sour grapes by the publishers! They believe they can make money publishing and charging for their own content rather than having Amazon as the middle man. It will be difficult, actually almost impossible, for them to catch up to Kindle (and others) at this stage of the game.

Why I am all for ‘Open’–and there will be room for some ‘Open’ platform readers–is because being the leader in a device like this, being proprietary, and being very competitively priced is not much if any of a disadvantage. Just look at the iPod. Publishers should concentrate on content and delivery to existing platforms, and not be thinking about e-reader devices and open standards.

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