Who Else But The Newspapers Would Bank On eBooks?

from the eBooks-again dept

In a bid to stem their rapid decline, newspapers are hoping that eBooks will somehow offer them salvation. Publishers are touting new devices that will allow users to download the paper’s contents, and then read it like they would a newspaper. Though every previous incarnation of the e-book has been met with failure, publishers hope that new generations, which are lighter, have better displays, and wireless capabilities, will finally prove popular with users. Suppose that users do find it worthwhile to shell out $400 for one of the new devices, and new technology makes reading on a digital screen as easy and comfortable as reading paper, will this actually help newspapers overcome their problems? The scenario assumes that users will actually use the devices to read the newspaper. Considering the poor job that papers have done in tailoring their product for the internet, why would the e-book market develop differently? The problem isn’t that people don’t want or need the content of newspapers (we’re proving that today, by linking to the New York Times for the second time), but that simply pushing out editions either physically or by digital download isn’t how people want to consume their news. The internet is allowing people to share, comment on, and redistribute the news as they please. Trying to stuff the old business model onto a new format is almost certainly bound for failure.

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Comments on “Who Else But The Newspapers Would Bank On eBooks?”

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Topher3105 (profile) says:

Failed utterly

With podcasting being the current trend, cellphones, PDA’s and a wide variety of notebooks, you would think that newspapers would have developed some form of solution that would keep them as a viable source of news and information in the digial age.

But, alas, newspapers (like the music industry) failed to recognize the potential for the Internet marketplace and so are being quickly run out of town by the prevalence of quick news blurbs and blog type sites that we all know and love.

Sure, some newspapers have tried to be digitally viable. I have heard of solutions in the past like having the daily news printed off your printer fresh each morning. But, for the most part, newspapers haven’t broken into this market the way they should have, and are still stuggling to find a voice in the digital era.

I get tired of getting calls from newspapers asking me if I want to subscribe to their paper rags. I did get a free trial subscription for several weeks, and this is what I have found out:

1) By the time I read the newspaper in the morning, it is covering news I have already read online the night before.

2) A LOT of the stories are simple rewrites of the kind of articles often found online. For instance, any newspaper that has a technology column usually regurgitates news posted on Slashdot or even Techdirt.

3) Have to sift through pages of ads to find something I am interested in reading, and 80% of the content in a newspaper is of no appeal to me.

4) Get a huge stack of garbage at the end of the week to recycle.

5) Still get black fingers from reading the newspaper.

I don’t find anything compelling about getting newspapers these days. I like getting news updates dynamically throughout the day, rather the reading yesterdays news on paper.

Newspapers are dead, and if they think eBooks will be their salvation, the nails are being driven in the coffin as we speak.

David says:

Re: Failed utterly

As the director of the internet div for a newspaper group, I have to tell you that this is what we are working towards. We have an e-edition coming on line next month that will answer most of your complaints. No black fingers, No garbage at the end of the month, no looking for the articles, they are listed with headline and teaser, and it is all local, so no regurgitation of news from other sources. In fact you can get previews of tomorrows news the night before and if it rains and your paper is wet, just go online and get the whole thing as dry as your monitor can deliver.

We are listening to our readers and we are making improvements it just takes time.

So if you are not happy with your paper, maybe you should let them know. The techs are listening and as the times change, being given more authority to act on suggestions. We are still your best source of legitimate and reliable information.

Worbod says:

You Need Traditional Media

Without “Traditional Media” what would you link to?

We need professional journalists to do the legwork and actually get the news. Not bloggers who take other people’s work and repackage it.

If there is nothing to repackage… what will you do .. hire reporters?

Many newspapers send emails by topic and RSS feeds and Blogs. For a dying business they seem to be changing quickly.

As for the Ebook idea…
You could certanly download only content that meet your criteria. I heard that paper thin e-books are only a few years away.

There needs to be a replacement for paper as well as the tradition monitor. I know I can’t read long, in depth articles on the screen.

Howard (user link) says:

How would an e-paper...

Just for starters, how would an electronic version of the paper handle the crosswords and soduku puzzles?

I’ve noticed that the Dallas Morning News in particular has gotten less and less relevant with time. I find the editorial bias there quite tiresome, and the general coverage quite poorly written (I have read many articles about events where I was a participant — and if not for the location and date, I would not have recognized the event from the description). In an effort to reduce costs, they have reduced the print size of the paper, which is a pain for those of us in the bifocal generation. About the only interesting things left are the comics and the advertising — I can find more interesting comics online, and as far as ads are concerned, the internet is far easier to use for finding stuff I want to buy than digging through the blow-ins in the paper.

The online version of the paper is even less appealing (although I have to admit I haven’t bothered to look in several months). The online classifieds are slow and cumbersome to read, and I’ve noticed that Dice and Monster are definitely the place to look for local help-wanted ads. When we were looking for employees for our tax-prep service, the best response we got was from free ads on craigslist and backpage.com — the DMN classifieds pulled a fat zero, so we won’t be wasting any more money on that.

David says:

Re: How would an e-paper...

Howard, I hate to break it to you but we already got your age group, its the younger audience we are looking to tap. So forgive us for not cowering to your every request. You would not believe the percentage of complaints that come from people your age. There will never be a time when your age group is happy. You don’t like the editorial because they don’t share your opinion, you don’t like the coverage because from the stands you can see it all.

You admit you haven’t looked at online e-editions in the past few months and yet you are ready to declare them un appealing. How are we to take your complaints serious?

Your age group may never be happy but you will for ever be verbal, and for that we pat you on the head and say thank you for writing, and for buying the paper anyway.

If you want your requests to be taken serious, show us how what you want effects our future growth, not the slowing of a dying market.

MarillaAnne (user link) says:

Re: How would an e-paper...

I’m from Dallas. I started this extended visit of mine in Portland, OR immediately before Katrina hit. When I wanted to know what was going on back home, I went to the Dallas News … and guess what! … They were covering teen pg in Chicago and something else in Chicago …

I’ll never forgive them. I’ve never even looked at the site again …

have fun,


Howard (user link) says:

My age group?

Howard, I hate to break it to you but we already got your age group

Not for much longer. My wife and I currently have to schedule reading of the one section that actually has any appeal to either of us, and when the DMN finally manages to screw that up past any usability, the subscription will be cancelled. I expect that is less than a year off. I did actually let my subscription lapse for several months, and I missed it a lot less than I expected to. My wife was the one that decided to re-subscribe after receiving 50% off the subscription rate. Of course, because of their declining advertiser base, they just raised the subscription rates again this month…

You don’t like the editorial because they don’t share your opinion

I don’t like the editorials because they are fuzzy-headed bleeding-heart Liberals, whose bias permiates their news coverage, not just the editorials.

You admit you haven’t looked at online e-editions in the past few months.

Yup. When I was looking for a job last summer, I looked at *all* of the various places I could think of. The DMN online classifieds had not changed in years, and had essentially nothing over the print version. It was actually harder to navigate than the print version. When I found what I was looking for, it was through personal networking, not the DMN or HotJobs or DICE or even Monster. Maybe that’s changed, but I’m not currently looking for a job, and I kinda doubt that the online version of DMN has changed any lately. Maybe if I hear about some improvement from a different channel, I’ll bother to look (and be prepared to be disappointed).

Sean Daily (user link) says:

One successful eBook model

Pay-for eBooks have definitely had their share of struggles. For various reasons, people just haven’t adopted most implementations of eBook delivery. However, I should point out that’s usually the business model’s problem, not the entity itself. eBooks are about as endangered as the regular book as a delivery vehicle for content. When you consider they’re digital, really they’re even less so.

All of the about is why when I founded Realtimepublishers.com in 2000 (a publisher of eBooks for the IT industry), the most important step I took wasn’t using eBooks but choosing a business model where vendors sponsor (underwrite) 100% of the book development costs rather than readers. And that model has been very successful — evidenced by the fact that we’re still in business after six years.

Oh, and just in case you’re thinking it… no, the sponsors have absolutely no say in what goes into the books, so readers aren’t getting an infomercial. Basically, you’re getting a $40 book for free because the sponsor wants you to register for the book and get your name as a potential sales lead.. a database from which you can also of course unsubscribe at any time if you wish (sponsors are major companies such as HP, Microsoft, Veritas, etc.. not fly-by-nights). The concept of free eBooks has unfortunately since been co-opted, cheapened and abused to some degree by MLM firms and spammers, but there are still companies out there delivering real books with real/useful content from real authors in a no-cost format. This model could easily be put into play at a newspaper or just about anywhere else for that matter.

Put another way, let’s be careful not throw the baby out with the bath water on the topic of eBooks..

Duncan Long (user link) says:

Remember the word processor

Back in early 1980s, companies offered a product called the word processor. It looked a lot like today’s desktop computer. Only all it did was what Word, WordPerfect, and others would soon do on a desktop computer. The word processor cost about the same as the PC, but it could only do one thing. Guess what happened when the public could buy a computer for the same price as a word processor? Whole industries fell as the multi-purpose home PC took off.

It doesn’t seem unreasonable to think this same thing might happen with the ebook reader. Is it not likely that a small computer that can read books and do a whole lot more will become the “machine of choice” for reading ebooks?

With a touch screen, such a device could function like an ebook reader or a tablet PC. You could carry it in your pocket. But once this machine is at work or at home, you can plug in a large monitor and/or keyboard and have a computer that does a whole lot more.

Already we’re seeing laptops that are light and not much more expensive than many ebook readers that only read ebooks.

Which one do you think the public is likely to buy when both the devices are the same price and size, with one reading only ebooks and maybe surfing the web while the other does those things plus a whole lot more?


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