Kindle Broadsheet

Apparently this week, Amazon will release a new, larger Kindle, the first of a series of products that are supposed to save the newspaper industry:

…these new gadgets, with screens roughly the size of a standard sheet of paper, could present much of the editorial and advertising content of traditional periodicals in generally the same format as they appear in print. And they might be a way to get readers to pay for those periodicals — something they have been reluctant to do on the Web.

…But it is Amazon, maker of the Kindle, that appears to be first in line to try throwing an electronic life preserver to old-media companies. As early as this week, according to people briefed on the online retailer’s plans, Amazon will introduce a larger version of its Kindle wireless device tailored for displaying newspapers, magazines and perhaps textbooks.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but the reason I haven’t purchased a Kindle is not at all because it’s not big enough. It’s because the pricing model is ridiculous. Beyond the $350 need to buy the device, it’s the monthly subscription charges that really push it over into the “early adopter only” category. Or maybe it’s the “rich people” category.

Now, part of this is the conundrum facing the newspaper (and magazine) business — there are now so many places to the get “the news” for free, online, that paying $13.99 for the Times when you can read it online for free, just seems wrong. Granted, I pay for the paper-based Sunday edition, but here, I feel like I’m paying for the experience of reading the Times on a Sunday morning. The tactility of it all…

That aside, the pricing model just doesn’t make sense. I’ve found paperback books at Amazon that cost less than the Kindle version — huh? And to read blogs on the Kindle, you need to subscribe, at $.99 per month per blog. I currently have 256 feeds in my reader — even if you take 1/4 of that, that’s a lot of monthly cash to read blogs.

Another problem — and maybe a bigger problem — is spelled out in the Times article quoted above:

Subscribers get updates once a day over a cellular network.

Once a day?

That’s way out of place with the world in which we live today. Life is real-time.

(This, incidentally, is the main downside of the “reading the Times on Sunday morning” experience — I’ve read many of the articles already, some days earlier, as the NYT seems to start posting weekend articles as early as Wednesday…)

Finally, there’s another concern, one that’s the thesis of Jonathan Zittrain’s Future of the Internet and How to Stop It. I haven’t finished reading this book yet, but the short of it is, the more we buy into closed technology models like the Kindle, where one company acts as a gatekeeper of the technology (the iPhone is exactly this model as well), the more we are shutting out what Zittrain calls the “generative” qualities of digital media.

These are the concerns and problems with the Kindle. Somehow, the execs at Amazon seem to have convinced themselves the size of the device is a limitation. And if the newspaper industry is hanging its hopes on this particular electronic broadsheet, I say, good luck to that.


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