GearChat: The Demise of Print Media and a Possible Reason for the Amazon Kindle

Once again, we invite you to eavesdrop on our email conversations…

Wayne: R.I.P. … the Internet slays another print publication…

Mitchell: I was a subscriber to PC World for about 5 years, and then I realised that I was paying for a magazine with content that I had read weeks earlier on the internet.

It really is inevitable I suppose, tech magazines just can’t stay ahead of the game with online news sites getting information out hours after release. They have to wait a whole month…

Clinton: This is the same problem that many tech magazines face. Granted, most have a much smaller circulation than PC World, but the net result is the same: very few subscribers but a massive uptick in online “subscribers”. Amongst us Gear Diary types, I’d be shocked if many of these magazines were still printing this time next year.

Mitchell: Yeah I have the same thought each time I receive various magazines I have subscribed to, they just feel out of date. They have to know the end is coming as well.

Judie: No surprise here. I have stacks of unread magazines as it is – I want my info on my laptop. And I also want it to be UP TO DATE if I bother to read it in a magazine. That means I’ll keep my Skeptic, Wired and Mental Floss subscriptions, and others that don’t go stale when you read them a month after the print date. 😛

Chris Gavula: Print works where data changes slowly. It doesn’t work for tech because the rate of change is too quick. Lead time on print is too long to be timely for tech.

I thought ZD gave up the ghost a while ago. I guess that speaks to their general relevance to my life!

But back in the old days….. 🙂

Allen: I was a PC Mag subscriber back in the 80’s when I was in high school. No internet way back then, at least not the internet we know now. Magazines found in my backpack then.. PC Mag, Compute!, RUN, and Popular Science. I actually read every issue from cover to cover and wished that I had all those cool powerful computers in the articles and ads 😛

Chris Spera: I subscribed to the eBook version of PC Mag for a while in 2004-2005 and NEVER read any of them because the reader was too heavy to push. The print version was much easier to read, but too big and expensive to go through. I’m going to miss these guys…

Judie: Jerry and I have had this conversation before, specifically about tech magazines. I *think* they still exist because of people who don’t know where to look on the internet for information; who still trust most what they’ve read in hard copy. There might be a lot of GREAT newbie information in every issue, but it is stale bread for the average techie. Gone are the days when you can expect to see a genuine news flash in monthly print.

Doug Goldring: Yeah, I usually just peruse them for review ideas.

Judie: Actually, I find myself doing that with the “Sky Mall” catalog anytime I fly!!

Doug G.: Ha! I have done it with SkyMall as well. Cause what the hell else is SkyMall good for? 🙂

Joel: The internet is really better and way easier than a magazine….and with nice portable laptop, you can still read on the toilet…. 😆

Wayne: …remind me never to touch your laptop keys….

Joel: Really though, is any one of us Not guilty of doing this…at least once?? 😆 Ok, maybe not with a laptop but….with a Nokia N800 or a PDA or something?

Judie: Like any of us would admit it now!!! 😉 hee

Joel: Anybody who says they didn’t….is lying!

Doug G.: I can neither confirm nor deny any alleged incidences of using an electronic or other device while in the bathroom, or otherwise. 🙂

Clinton: Freakin’ lawyer…

It is interesting though. I don’t think magazines will ever really go away so long as we have paper to print them on. I think the real struggle is for technology magazines where the Internet is constantly pushing information out at an amazing rate. For some industries or hobbies, magazines will still be a good source of information. With all due respect to those who do woodwork and build furniture… does it really change all that much indeed at all in the last 100 years except for better tools?

I strongly believe there is another dynamic involved in this and that is the Millennial generation. That age group is constantly looking for instant information and magazines, much like email, are perceived as too slow and for “old people”. My two teens – 16 year old daughter and 19 year old son – neither subscribe to magazines and have no interest. My daughter on occasion will pick up Style magazine at the grocery while my son will pick up Guitar world on occasion. That’s it though. The vast amount of their information on these topics come from the Internet. This generation, I think, will have more impact than anything else on the life expectancy of magazines.

Whew! How’s that for thinking at 6:30AM without coffee yet! 🙂

Wayne: Slightly related to the demise of papers and periodicals…
Let me hit you with my theory on Amazon Kindle — and mind you it’s really a WAG on what they may be trying to do with this thing.

Some of my ideas aren’t so far fetched. The device has been out of stock perpetually since launch — which does not seem right to me (at least Amazon should have some better stock management skills). I think the device is more a live beta than a business model.

What I think Amazon Kindle is — a prototype.

Amazon wants to be the deliverer for readable content – books, magazines, content.

So they’re “testing” this whole integration between EVDO data and daily delivery of newspapers and periodicals and books to Kindle.

Long term where’s the Kindle model?

In my pea brain I think it’s where people have access to all sorts of “content readers”
– head rest in the back of a seat
– portable reader provided free when getting on a plane – or built into a seat back
– readers in public areas like commuter trains or subways
– probably even your computer

Imagine if when you took a trip you did not have to lug your stack of books to read (ok, humor me and pretend that you’re not already using an ebook reader — because the masses probably aren’t).

Before you get on the plane, you swipe your credit card and rent a reader (similar to Kindle) for $5 — then on the plan or while you’re waiting you have the ability to download any current magazine, book or blog you like.

Sort of an interesting model — IF it could catch on (and it’s a BIG if)

Now Amazon has this model (assuming it takes off) where they provide (for a fee) content to these portable devices (modeled after the Kindle functionality) that have credit card readers — so you swipe your card and pull down Newsweek or USA Today.

Small payments are already catching on — I use the RED BOX (tip: keyword MARCH for free rental the next few days) which dings my credit card a measly $1 for each DVD rental. So I think the model of swiping a credit card for $1 charges could grow.

I think a lot of pieces that Amazon needs (content, delivery, payment method) are all coming together and I would not be surprised if Amazon Kindle evolved into a much bigger delivery model than it currently is.

….of course it could go nowhere too…which is why they’re prototyping it now instead of trying to do a full blown expensive launch.

Food for thought….

Doug G.: Interesting premise, Wayne. And probably not too far off base. To be honest, I would love to be able to ditch a 1000 page book that I lug around on the train for a portable reader. I have two requirements though: screen size/resolution and format. These are the two biggest problems I have always had with eBooks. Either the screen is too small or fuzzy to do much with, or the books and readers are not compatible.

I also think Amazon has it backwards. They should be giving away the hardware for free, the way cell phone companies do. Heavily subsidize the hardware and then charge you a subscription fee for content or something like that.

Judie: Totally agree – but give us a choice of hardware – similar to how phone companies do…

Doug G: Judie, you are dangerously close to making sense with that one. 🙂 And we know that is not allowed from tech companies.

Clinton: Great stuff Wayne and I see you had your coffee this morning! 🙂

I think what you are posing here is entirely plausible and that Kindle is the means to a greater end.

Doug Moran: I’ve written quite a bit about the Kindle in the past, and my thoughts were mostly on the hardware at that time, honestly. My two biggest objections to the Kindle (outside of the hardware) are that it locks you into one “provider” for your books, and they have no upgrade path for those of us with existing e-libraries.

I do *not* see why Jobs & co. haven’t released a similar device yet; it would be hell’a easy to bump up the size of the iPhone and modify the existing eReader software to work on the iPhone platform—they already have a MacOS X version, after all.

Doug G. – Didn’t you see where Jobs said people don’t read anymore?? 🙂

Stay tuned for more roundtable conversations from the Gear Diary Team!

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
I've had a fascination with all types of gadgets and gizmos since I was a child, beginning with the toy robot that my grandmother gave my brother - which I promptly "relieved him of" in 1973. I'm a self-professed gadget magpie. I can't tell you how everything works, but I'm known world-wide for using a product until I have a full understanding of what it does, what its limitations are, and if it excels in any given area — or not.