A newspaper-sized (or at least more newspaper sized) Kindle is likely coming onto the market this Wednesday and the NY Times is pretty excited about it. I’m a little more skeptical…
The New York Times article reads:
The move by newspapers and magazines to make their material freely available on the Web is now viewed by many as a critical blunder that encouraged readers to stop paying for the print versions. And publishers have found that they were not prepared to deal with the recent rapid decline of print advertising revenue.
Publishers could possibly use these new mobile reading devices to hit the reset button and return in some form to their original business model: selling subscriptions, and supporting their articles with ads.
Wasn’t the big reason newspapers decided to go online was to remain relevant and timely in a breaking-news hungry culture? Information was being posted on the web more quickly than papers, even dailies, could keep up with. And that’s only more true now, with networking sites and friend networks allowing people to share information at the speed of a Tweet.
Books haven’t been threatened in the same way for two reasons - first, it’s not as easy to share book-length pieces online and second, the role of publisher as expert hasn’t yet been challenged to the same degree as the role of journalist. Newspapers are castigated for their editorial slant; publishers are congratulated. So Kindle helps books by making the desired content more accessible and slightly cheaper—there’s no fight to make customers believe it’s worth paying for the expertise required to build that book.
Is it the experience of the newspaper we miss? With online devices and ever-shrinking laptops, we can still get free news pretty much wherever we want it. Can readers come back to believing in newspapers just because they look similar to their paper predecessors? Aren’t there deeper issues here that need to be addressed? That is, bringing the journalist back to a ‘respected expert’ role similar to a publisher or even…a blogger.