Hearst to Produce Wireless e-Reader

extraI should begin this post with “it’s about time,” and I guess I just did.

Hearst Corp., like all print publishers, is having a hard go of things lately, and of course those financial difficulties began long before we started talking about the global economic chaos we are all living through. It was just a matter of time and erasing some entrenched attitudes (in many cases some of these publishers need to be saved from themselves) before the folks in the print media publishing companies began to look at other ways of selling their content in the digital age. Yes, they mostly all have web presence, but to break the “free on the web” milieu that has become universally accepted there was no question in my mind that they would need to look at other methods.

It looks like the folks at Hearst are taking a cue from Amazon, Sony, and other e-Ink device manufacturers and going to launch their own reader for distributing their content. According to this article in Fortune, it will also feature wireless delivery of content. (Hearst publishes magazines and newspapers.) It will have a larger screen than the Kindle more suited to a magazine format, according to sources. It will most likely debut in black and white, and probably transition to color when that technology is available. But then, I’d expect that of other devices as well.

The last paragraph in the article is somewhat confusing though:

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’s something you will never see Amazon do,” someone familiar with the Hearst project said. “They aren’t going to give up control of the devices.”

Remember this post on the cost that the New York Times incurs and how it would be cheaper to give a Kindle to all their subscribers than to print the paper?   Although nothing is official yet, I would think Hearst would be better off controlling the distribution of the device and charging other publishers to particiapte than to have a bunch of different e-Ink devices floating around for consumers to choose from. That could, in my opinion, defeat the entire effort.

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However this shakes out, I would look for others to follow, and also look for some interesting competition with Amazon, although for those calling it a Kindle Killer already, I think that is probably premature.

  

Comments

  1. Anonymous Reader says

    Here’s the sad thing. I spoke with the Hearst folks about this project back in 2004 when it was centered around a new type of e-ink technology. The black-white contrast was better than printed paper. It was amazing.

    They were trying to figure out a revenue model while preventing the cannibalization of print papers, but they basically had all the technology pieces and relationships in place.

    From the quote you mentioned above, it looks like they still haven’t fully gotten the revenue model down pat. I’m sure Amazon would be happy to help them…

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