Can Kindle’s Digital Ereader Replace the Traditional Newspaper?

As far back as a decade ago, MIT Media Lab has been working on a new portable form of paperless newspaper known as electronic paper or E-newspapers. This will be lauded by the various environmentalist groups because it will eliminate cutting down of trees and fuel consumption needed to deliver newspaper to newsstands and homes.

However, development of the e-paper has been far too slow. The introduction of Kindle, Amazon’s portable digital e-reader, offered Americans the pleasurable experience of reading e-books on the go. E-newspapers, on the other hand, still have to see daylight.

Paperless newspapers and magazines are not new since we read them on the web whenever we are online. E-newspapers read in portable devices like Kindle, however, provide a lot of benefit for readers and publishers alike.

  • E-newspapers are portable. You can carry it with you much like a cell phone.
  • They have an uncluttered reading interface. You will not be distracted by e-mail announcements and Messenger pop-ups in the middle of a good read.
  • Publishers will get more revenues from advertisers once reader subscription goes up. Ad rates are higher on e-readers than on the web.
  • E-newspapers would cut publishing production cost by 50% by eliminating printing and delivery expenses.
  • You don’t have to go out to get your morning papers. You don’t need to worry about recycling later. At present, Amazon’s Kindle carries 24 readable newspapers on their device. Monthly subscription ranges from $5.99 to $14.99 and the latest issue arrives every morning at dawn.

In spite of its convenience, Kindle has earned a lot of flak from even its most avid, but somehow disappointed, readers. Its most noticeable problem is its linear interface, much like reading a book with continuous pages of printed text and its absence of the option to browse freely, one that readers find most appealing in traditional newspapers. It provides no advertisement while graphics and photos appear drab on Kindle because of its black and white screen.

Finding and going to the news item you like is a tedious task. Unlike the newspapers’ well laid-out pages that pique readers’ interest with revealing news highlights, e-newspapers merely show headlines which leave readers clueless if it’s even worth navigating to. Surprisingly, only a few thousand enthusiasts have bought the device, a far cry from Amazon’s predicted 500,000 Kindle sales on its first year.

Roger Fidler, an e-reader research consultant at the University of Missouri, offers three improvements for e-newspapers to dramatically boost its sales:

  • Bigger screens for overall graphic improvement in displaying news items, pictures and ads.
  • Color screens for more audience appeal. Advertisers will definitely benefit from this.
  • Lower price – much, much lower than its current store price of $359.

Although color for e-newspapers is still long in coming, e-readers with wide 8.5 x 11 plastic screens will soon hit the market. Unlike today’s e-readers with glass screens, the new generation of devices will use pliable plastic screens that will be more protected against cracking.

There is still the nagging question whether consumers who can read free newspapers on the Web will switch to e-newspaper subscription which cost ten dollars or more per month. E Ink CEO Russell Wilcox expresses in a positive tone that technology is slowly bridging the experience gap between the paperless e-newspaper and the traditional ones that it is only a matter of time before people will inevitably switch.


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