Friday, January 8, 2010

A World of News in Your Hand -- Cheap

With the Consumer Electronics Show underway in Las Vegas as I type, e-readers are the hot topic. With Amazon's Kindle (left) and Barnes & Noble's Nook having generated most of the buzz pre-show (they're primarily designed for reading books, natch), the new talk is about larger e-readers, ones that can show color, etc.

In other words, these are e-readers tailored for the reading of newspaper- and magazine-style content, which traditionally is a much bigger page than books, with color photos, pie charts, graphs and so on. Some even have touchscreens or let you take notes.

I don't have an e-reader, mostly because they're pretty pricey, and I have quite enough pricey electronics with short shelf lives in my possession right now. But, I might be persuaded ...

Back at the beginning of this blog early last summer, I explored the future of news, asking questions about what might become of the traditional news delivery systems (inky newsprint, in particular) and why people paid for them.

So here's the question I've been asking myself about e-readers -- why would I pay $250 and up (and up) for a device that still made me pay for additional content? I'm cheap to be sure, but as of yet, the cost-benefit ratio just hasn't worked for me.

But, what if I could get an e-reader for less than $100 (I like $50, but again, cheap), if I also agreed to an extended subscription for a local newspaper? It's much like the deep discount offered on mobile handsets in exchange for an extended service contract with the mobile provider.

Perhaps the deal could be sweetened with access to the newspapers' sister publications around the country (for example, I work for Tribune Company, and we have several newspapers, along with some specialty publications). Perhaps deals could be struck with magazine publishers to bundle in a few of those at a bargain price. And there could even be original content produced just for e-reader subscribers.

I would then have an e-reader on the cheap, with a ready-made cornucopia of content. Of course, I could download books and whatever else I wanted to the device. Having a device that could only display the subscription content that was part of the original deal would be, well, stupid.

And of course, I would want the ability to see all the cool multimedia content offered on news sites.

You may say, "But Accidental Futurist, I can read all this stuff on my laptop, or on my netbook or on my mobile device!"

Yes, you may, provided the newspapers keep giving their stuff away for free on the Internet.

But even if they do, one upside of e-readers is that they make reading print on a screen as easy on the eyes as reading on paper. And once you've loaded the content into them, you don't need an Internet connection to keep reading. And you won't go blind from peering at tiny screens.

And all this might be worth it, if they were CHEAP enough. And it just might allow e-readers to have a longstanding niche in the market (if you believe some reports, that's far from assured).

Would you buy fancy mobile phones and PDAs if you had to pay the full list price? Look at the list prices once in a while and compare to what you paid. You may faint.

Look, I'm no genius. This idea is already being floated out in the world. My question to you is -- would you bite? And if not, why not?

BTW, when I floated this idea on Twitter, somebody told me that she's just old-fashioned and prefers the feel of a newspaper or a book. Fair enough -- if you believe that both of these things will survive in their current form.

Good luck with that.

UPDATE: E-readers beware, it looks like Steve Jobs' new Apple Tablet is aiming to be one-stop-shopping for print AND TV. Click here for more.

UPDATE: This is why I said a discounted ereader, not a free one.


Unknown said...

That is so funny that you bring this up - I was thinking to myself the other day that I wouldn't be interested in the current e-readers because I don't like their small size, but if they ever came out with larger, magazine-ish size ones, I'd really be interested. However, I figured the price would be crazy on something like that, but your ingenious idea of pairing it with a subscription to something is great - I hope people who can make this happen are reading this!! I could definitely see myself going for that.

AprilMac said...

Which is why my bitching laptop IS my e-reader-where I get all the news of the world 24/7 without incurring new expense whatsoever. Talk about reinventing the wheel!!!

Anonymous said...


Chris said...

Ok I'm late replying to this but here goes. I have had my NOOK for about a month now and I totally love it.
Yeah, I could read ebook on my MacBook.....or even on my iPhone. But the NOOK does exactly what I want and no more. It's the "no more" part that I actually like. When I'm reading I don't necessarily want to be interrupted my IMs, or texts, or my phone ringing etc.

Also, the NOOK is the absolute PERFECT size to drop right in my purse. That's pretty much where I keep it. And let's think about this. It's not like having A book with you all the time. It's like having a library with you. If I'm waiting on my kids in the car I can read the latest fiction I'm into, or pick up where I left off in The Happiness Project....

I think I'm actually reading more now than I ever did before and I didn't think that was possible. If I worked full time I'd probably carry my MacBook with me everywhere so probably wouldn't need the NOOK I guess. As a stay-at-home-mom, it's a Godsend!


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