Kindle to save newspapers? Nah

The Wall Street Journal recently opined that the Kindle could change American reading habits. I buy that. Then, Information Week followed that with a headline that said: How the Kindle will save newspapers.

I’m not buying that one. Not by a long shot.

Here’s why. The Kindle design, right now, isn’t newspaper friendly. It’s hard to read a newspaper on a device that’s built for books. The current Kindle version doesn’t support photos, video or graphics, The Kindle costs about the same or more than netbooks, and newspapers don’t reap much of a financial benefit since Kindle keeps a lion’s share of the subscription revenue.

Recently, Amazon announced it’s coming out with a larger version of the Kindle in Q4 2009, a version that’s supposed to be more newspaper friendly. That release date coincides with planned trials of the Plastic Logic e-reader in Detroit. And, who knows? Maybe the Hearst-based First Paper will be out by then, too, and Fujitsu will try to enter the US market.

Hopefully, all of these companies — and others — will come up with viable e-readers. That way, the competition will drive down e-reader prices charged to newspapers and result in more equitable revenue sharing models.

For media companies, I think that’s the real value of Kindle’s move. The Kindle, by itself, will not save newspapers. But it’s going to help create competition that will lead to more favorable terms for media companies. If that is indeed true, then let’s get as much competition as we can.

My blog appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week.


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