Hearst to debut an e-reader for periodicals?

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Have you been thinking about springing for a Kindle 2, not to read novels, but to get the morning paper on? Makes sense, right? No more AM deliveries failing to show up, no more stopping at the newsstand. Instead everything is delivered wirelessly to your device. And no stacks of old papers to toss into the landfill. Yup, makes a lot of sense.

But you might want to hold off for now. CNN Money reports that periodical publishing giant Hearst Corporation is readying its own e-reader device. Specifications are still in the realm of rumor, but Money suggests a larger device (roughly the size of a sheet of paper) to better emulate the periodical reading experience, as well as to support advertisers. Sound cumbersome? Well the device might be flexible, or even foldable. Slick. As with the Kindle and Sony Reader, the device would use E Ink's electronic ink technology, with the initial release probably being black and white, with color and even video supporting devices to follow later.

So, is Hearst going into the retail device business? No. Money says "What Hearst and its partners plan to do is sell the e-readers to publishers and to take a cut of the revenue derived from selling magazines and newspapers on these devices. The company will, however, leave it to the publishers to develop their own branding and payment models."

That opens up a lot of questions for the consumer. If you buy this device from one publisher will you be able to obtain and read content from another publisher? If sales of the unit are subsidized by the publishers, one would think not. But (obviously) none of us want to have a stack of e-readers each keyed to a different publisher. If the devices aren't subsidized, will they still be affordable? Let's hope they we're not expected to shell out $360 to read the morning paper. How will they be branded, and what will entice me to buy the reader from Publisher A rather than Publisher B? Will there be any way to get books on the devices? And if not, again, do we want to have one device for our electronic books and another for our electronic periodicals?

Lots of interesting questions. We may be getting answers sooner than you'd think, though. Money says the device is likely to debut this year.

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