The print publishing industry is currently being hit with two very serious problems. The costs for printing and distributing print publications are soaring and at the same time, advertising revenue and subscriber rates are dropping. Some newspapers and print magazines simply won’t be able to survive in the current economy.
One of the things being watched closely and hoped to be able to save the print publishing industry are large screen e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle 2 and others that are specifically designed to allow for reading digital versions of the print publications from newspaper and magazine publishers.
Current e-readers like the Kindle 2 have screens that are too small to effectively display large magazine and newspaper pages with the same ads and format as a print version. That will reportedly change soon. As early as this week, the New York Times reports that Amazon is said to be launching a new larger screen Kindle device specifically for newspapers and magazines.
A larger screen electronic reader is being eyed as the possible savior to the print publishing market by offering a device that gives readers familiar layouts, but sheds the costly printing and delivery costs associated with traditional print publishing. For the mass market to adopt a digital reader for these purposes screens needs to be the size of a standard sheet of paper in the publishers mind.
Amazon isn’t alone in efforts to bring larger screen e-readers to market. News Corporation and Plastic Logic are readying large screen readers specifically for digital newspapers and magazines. The NYT reports that people briefed on the subject say that the larger screen Kindle may launch as early as this week offering the ability to show larger layout newspaper, magazine and even textbook pages.
John Ridding, CEO of British newspaper The Financial Times, said, "We are looking at this [large screen e-readers] with a great deal of interest. The severe double whammy of the recession and the structural shift to the Internet has created an urgency that has rightly focused attention on these devices."
The NYT says that a new breed of large screen readers will give the print publishing world a second change to rethink their strategy on digital publishing. The digital devices would allow the publisher to sell subscriptions again, something that fans of digital media are reluctant to buy. Eventually, subscribers could be given an e-reader in exchange for agreeing to a one-year subscription similar to what cellular providers do with mobile phones.
Even a larger screen Kindle will still have one major shortcoming that will prevent many users from adopting digital publications -- color. Current screen technology for e-readers is limited to black and white. To really deliver a digital magazine reading experience like you get from a print publication the screen needs to be color.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati announced a breakthrough last week that will lead to the eventual creation of color e-readers. The technology uses a pixel with individual ink reservoirs that can change color with the video quality speed. Technology like this will allow for full color magazines that have the same glossy color images that readers are used to seeing in print magazines.
Conde Nast editorial director Tom Wallace said, "I don’t think we would be anywhere near as excited about anything in black and white as we would about high-definition color. But technology changes at a pretty high clip these days, and if we are now in the Farmer Gray days, it will be only a very short while until we are in the video game era."
Update 05/06/2009:Amazon today announced pre-orders for its Kindle DX 9.7" reader.