E-Readers are the Future of Books, Not Magazines

Once again, the kindly Letters Editor at The Wall Street Journal allowed me another bully pulpit from which to express my rebuttal to author’s Dan Newman’s misguided dissing of the Kindle.

As a self-proclaimed book, car, music, you-name-it collector, I can sympathize with a fondness for tangible stuff. There’s nothing like a room filled with neat books and the tactical experience that goes with handling their delicate pages no doubt evoking memories both good and bad. They are efficient, at least from a reader’s perspective, and they do one thing well.

But that’s not the point. Today’s young consumers are not living in our blast from the past. Their access to information, both knowledge-based and entertainment-driven, stem from electronic sources notably the web. Our fondness for the way things used to be is simply that. The purpose of this blog is to help publishers recognize the needs of future consumers, and to resist the temptation to seek out whatever widget might justify their publications’ dubious future in print.

To that point, I do not believe that e-readers work for magazines. Magazine content has already morphed to the web in various non-paid forms with a few success stories for revenue-driven content such as WSJ and The New York Times, the exception. Automotive publishers who view the iPad, Kindle, or whatever as their publications’ saviors will be disappointed. Why? It’s simple: Books and periodicals are different animals where the former are self-contained bodies of work acting as a resource over time. And anyone in publishing knows that books require a dramatically different selling proposition versus magazine subscriptions. Books are easy to justify, subscriptions are a commitment and a comparatively tough sell. Books are keepers, mags (with few exceptions) are not. The inherent timeliness of magazines is their achilles’ heel in the new media age.  

So it is with great sadness (to some) that the Kindle and other e-readers will only get better and consequently appeal to a broader range of consumers. If my lovely iPod-challenged wife is able to embrace the Kindle, then it’s just a question of time before others join the bandwagon. Heck, even our aged eyes enjoy enlarged type on the fly!

Anyway, following my rebuttal to Dan’s cruise down memory lane. What’s your opinion?

Dan Newman denies the impact of an increasingly dominant Web-enabled audience. Or more simply put, it’s about the consumer, stupid. New media has rebooted to more efficient methods of obtaining information, not unlike vinyl albums ceding to single-track downloads. Our sons and daughters use smartphones, not card catalogs, use books only out of necessity and don’t frequent newsstands. They are the new consumers. Mr. Newman sees the world from a rear-view mirror. If it takes a Kindle for my college son to read “Moby Dick,” then I say launch the boats!

Dan’s source article here.


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