How far away is the electronic book for publishers and bloggers?

My household typically no longer buys newspapers.  Actually we rarely watch the television news either.

We get most ‘news’ via a couple of magazine subscriptions, podcasts (generally consumed in the car or whilst doing the washing up) and to a less extent online.

It seems we are not alone. The newspaper sector, for example in the UK and USA, is deeply unloved at the moment by investors, with ad revenue expected to fall in the USA by 16% or so over the next 2 years. In the UK the largest news publishing group, Trinity Mirror, has seen an 80% fall in its stock price over the last 2 years.

Companies like Trinity are therefore busily trumpeting the growth of their online properties to investors out there, the line being, “our readership and ad revenue is falling but hey look at the growth of this online revenue…”

Like the much awaited demise of cinema when television came along I’m not sure that newspapers will disappear (is everyone going to obtain their news from Adsense-funded individual bloggers out there? – I doubt it). However what would really help out these guys like Trinity is if they didn’t have to spend 40% of their revenue printing and distributing a big hunk of forest every day.

But let’s face it, the computer screen sucks for casual reading. An odd thing to say really when this is a blog (Windows users hit Alt+F4 now).

I have to admit that the blogosphere hasn’t been high on my reading list either.

The likely way I would consume blogs would be by RSS feed but I don’t even have a dedicated RSS reader (and haven’t explored the Windows IE RSS functionality) although I have been vaguely thinking this is where I would like to go:  getting ever closer to the ‘my newspaper’ ideas bruited about when I was working on websites in the heady days of the millenium. A large commercial website aimed at the business sector I’m involved with gets about 3.5% of page views via RSS feed: so RSS aint there yet (RSS is only double the number of article print requests we can see on the same site).  

So my suspicion is that people who currently read blogs generally write blogs, and they’re reading blogs primarily because blog writers they link to often link back, mutually feeding their blog’s respective Google PageRank scores.

What would change all of this however is that if a decent electronic book came along. And finally, it looks like within 3-5 years that is going to happen.

Amazon's Kindle reading device

Amazon’s Nov ’07 launch of the Kindle has supposedly sold about 350,000 units, which is quite a lot for a device less than a year old, which has ongoing subscription charges to boot. Then there’s Sony’s Reader which only has USB connectivity (presumably that means forget subscribing to a blog RSS feed) and then there is the wifi-equipped Phillips iRex.  This aint like reading text on your PDA or computer – these ‘E Ink’ screens provide very clear typeface viewable in outside light conditions from multiple angles.

Sony's version of the electronic book

However despite the availability and initially encouraging sales it looks like they’ve not learnt from the music industry and digital rights management is rampant, so unlike a paperback you can’t give a copy of your Sony ebook to a friend. And on the Kindle you have to subscribe to Amazon’s mobile data service in order to subscribe to this blog…

What I’m waiting to buy (and possibly a few other people) is an electronic reader that works offline for normal books and with wifi for online RSS subscriptions, with no digital rights management. That’s the device I’m going to be sitting in a (wifi equipped) coffee shop reading.

And at that stage reading RSS-‘my newspaper’ blogs may be an increasingly mainstream activity and a larger number of blogs will make sense from an ad revenue perspective.

This article filed under the following 'Interest' categories (click category for more) Wait for release 2.0

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Article posted by @Drivelry on September 7, 2008

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