Print in a Digital World

Sony’s eBook reader and Amazon’s Kindle are evidence that the publishing industry sees the need to convert to digital. However, what are the newspaper and magazine industries doing to adapt?

Well, according to The International Herald Tribune, newspaper publishers in France are testing a new device – Read & Go – it comes in a black rectangular box with a screen half the size of a sheet of copy paper and links to several French newspapers, with black on gray type mimicking ink on newsprint.

There are two problems I see with this – although I think it is a HUGE step in the right direction. We had someone in to talk to our Financial Aspects of Publishing Class last fall from a major paper and we discussed this possibility. However, he said it would never go over with advertisers because they want the same size ads, and essentially this is cutting down their ad size. It is also worth noting that the Kindle already allows downloads of 19 newspapers from around the world (and will soon be available in non-US markets). Unlike the Kindle, the Read & Go includes ads, but the article doesn’t mention how advertisers will take the size change. It is assumed they will be added to the electronic version without eliminating them from the print, and the Read & Go is still in the testing phase, so they may not know yet.

The second problem I see with this is people like newspapers because they are flexible. You can fold them up and toss them in your bag – you don’t have to worry if you leave them on the train; etc. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m very much in favor of newspapers going digital. I just think that it probably won’t go mainstream unless either they develop a large (so ads aren’t resized) digital paper that can be folded without breaking its screen or a major newspaper publisher provides their subscribers with a copy each, that automatically updates whichever papers the person subscribes to. Or both.

The advantage should, say, the New York Times adopt this method, is that subscribers could leave it in their bag – they would still get it delivered to their device; they wouldn’t miss a day’s paper because they were traveling or out-of-town. The disadvantage is they wouldn’t be able to clip out articles – although that would provide a new reason to post the article archives on the web, and might even drive up archive sales.

Even Esquire is adopting E-ink; their new anniversary cover, for their September issue reportedly will flash “the 21st century begins now.” This seems to indicate that magazines too will eventually push into the new technology.

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