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Five Top Publishers Plan Rival to Kindle Format 123

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-media-readers dept.
eldavojohn writes "Time Inc., News Corp., Conde Nast, Hearst Corp., and Meredith Corp. are teaming up to create a digital newsstand and somewhat open format that 'can render our content beautifully on those devices that come to market' instead of the gray inked Kindle's energy conscious display. Devices are being made for the new format with the launch coming next year. The format will also target smart phones and tablet computers. Will this pose a threat at all to the Kindle?"
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Five Top Publishers Plan Rival to Kindle Format

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  • by explosionhead (574066) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @07:39PM (#30382806) Homepage

    From TFA: "...technology that would display in color and work on a variety of devices."

    Wow, its taken them this long to find out about HTML?

  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @07:40PM (#30382822) Journal

    That reading the news drew more of my battery for the sake of colours.

    instead of the gray inked Kindle's energy conscious display

  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @07:42PM (#30382844) Homepage

    The don't own it and can't control who uses it.

  • by taustin (171655) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @07:44PM (#30382858) Homepage Journal

    ... and pay our fees, and publish only using our proprietary DRM that requires that our server still be up and running before you can read what you've paid for, but we'll shut that server down if we don't make enough money off this.

    Kindle's bad enough on the "you can't buy this, only rent it, and we won't even promise you can read it once" business model. No, this isn't a threat to Kindle.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @07:44PM (#30382862) Homepage Journal

    This is a bad thing? Personally i like that feature.

  • by malakai (136531) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @07:55PM (#30382980) Journal

    Only reason I got a kindle was the e-ink display. I think I get about 5 TPN*/battery change [Terry Pratchet Novels].

    If only I could leave a recipe open for more than 10 minutes w/o the stupid screen saver like image coming on.

  • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:04PM (#30383060)

    A nice illustration or well chosen photograph can add value to an article. It can set the tone or inform in a concise way.

  • by tthomas48 (180798) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:05PM (#30383068) Homepage

    Yes, but obviously they are stupid because they haven't learned from all competitors to iTunes thus far. The only real competitor to iTunes in music is Amazon. Why? Because Amazon's music store is completely open.

    These publishers could take out iTunes tomorrow. Become a central repository where anyone can publish works for free in a format that works on all platforms. No reason for consumers to use iTunes or Amazon. One of the main weaknesses in Amazon's store is that you can't give away works for free. Add that. Make it a central hub for all content and it will succeed. Make it a closed system full of arbitrary content like Hulu, and it will never amount to much.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:07PM (#30383096)

    its not like the kindle is a linux machine that amazon cant add this new magic format to is it?... iirc people are dumb

  • nope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ephemeriis (315124) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:12PM (#30383154)

    Will this pose a threat at all to the Kindle?

    Nope.

    Regardless of how much they like color or what kind of DRM they want to bolt on, they're also going to want to actually sell their content. So they'll license the format to folks. And if Amazon is actually threatened at all by their devices or whatever... They'll do whatever it takes to license it.

    Either that, or these companies will refuse to license the format... Which will quickly become irrelevant because it doesn't work on many devices... And they'll wind up abandoning it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:19PM (#30383220)

    Early adopters? E-ink devices have been out for years - even before the Kindle.

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot&hackish,org> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:23PM (#30383262)

    While true, does contemporary print media actually do that much? Flipping through my local paper, I don't see much of value in the illustrations. A few graphs, a few photos of politicians, a few photos of sports games. The graphs and infographics could be rendered fine in black-and-white, anyway, at least if the paper's got a competent graphic designer.

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:27PM (#30383294)

    In that same vein, I find it telling that they call it "our content". No, it isn't. It's either the creator's, or mine. They are just middle-men distributing data. This new venture, though, would perpetuate their hold on the distribution channel. At the same time, I find it also telling that they're focusing on display and prettyness, rather than battery-life and ease-of-use. It's probably going to suffer the same fate as DivX.... at least, I hope.

  • Tough call... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrCrassic (994046) <deprecated@emaGIRAFFE.il minus herbivore> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:29PM (#30383314) Journal

    Even if this gets nicely marketed and gains a decent amount of traction into the current eBook user market, what will this do to make people want eBooks?

    iPhone owners, of which there are SIGNIFICANTLY more of, can get their daily news much, much easier. Unless there are a sizable number of avid readers that would benefit from having these digital readers (which they wouldn't, considering the DRM and their anti-sharing nature), I don't think prettifying magazines and such for use with readers is a good solution. Furthermore, magazines are a bit touchy, since a LOT of them are sold right from the stands because of their convenience. I'm sure that a digital model would work better for subscription-based magazines like Time that would work well as a digital platform. However, I'd like to assert that what REALLY drives magazine sales are super catchy headlines and pictures relevant to our interests. There's a reason why tabloids and celebrity trash is incredibly popular with women...

    As an alternative, I think that consumers would be better served with a coalition that really investigated the sociology, psychology and technology behind what people really want in digital book readers.

    Here are a few examples showing why this is needed. Most readers come with keyboards, physical and/or virtual, but they are mostly useless. Additionally, the Nook comes with a color screen...but its introductory review only gave it fair marks. Even further, they come with cellular radios so that people can download books on the fly...but only work in the United States AND are still carrier-locked! Worse, with the exception of the Nook, they don't have Wifi...which is probably most convenient to readers in areas without wireless access or without the desire of paying umpteen dollars extra per month just to download books. Finally, let's not ignore the fact that they only have one screen, which is completely counterintuitive to the way people read books. One screen works fine for short text, like newspaper articles and such, but doesn't have the same ease of use when reading novels that are hundreds of pages long!

    When the iPhone was released, it had a processor that was slower than a lot of its competition, bugs up the wazoo, and didn't even have copy and paste! Nonetheless, it sold like hotcakes on sale for the same reason the iPod did...it was easy for people to use, and it made sense to own one. When eReaders approach that level of ease, I think we'll see them really (REALLY) take off.

  • by Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:36PM (#30383364)
    It's amazing how many people miss the point. When the Kindle and other e-readers come up in conversation, I explain time and time again exactly what e-ink is and what it means for battery life. And every single time the first thing that people ask is, "Oh, wait, so it's just in black and white?"

    This is just a larger group of people missing the point of e-ink. Then again, since there are so many like-minded people, maybe they have a point of their own. Perhaps there is a market for flashy e-readers. I mean, netbooks are doing well enough.
  • by AmberBlackCat (829689) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:50PM (#30383520)
    For me and my friends, Amazon's selling points were lower prices, no DRM, and the mp3 format. Three things these guys aren't going to do.
  • by Whillowhim (1408725) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:56PM (#30383572)

    Games? Social Networking? The fact that Murdoch is a part of this venture does not surprise me, because it shows an astounding lack of understanding for why people are buying ebook readers and what the market actually wants in a book reader appliance. Namely, they failed to do prior art to find the millions of PDAs people were using to do exactly what this new format is proposing. Or rather... not doing exactly what this format is proposing, because no one really needs it and it is an energy hog.

    The Kindle and other ebook readers (i.e. the Sony one I've owned for the past 3 years) did not become popular because they were a new idea and a new device, they became popular because of a new technology: e-ink. There were book readers before the e-ink displays came around, but very few people used them because they suffered from 2 major drawbacks. The first was the power consumption of their displays meant that you had to plug them in and let them charge on a daily or twice daily basis. People already have to charge their cell phones on a daily basis, but charging one twice a day when you use it a lot is pretty annoying, and a huge amount of power is spent on the display when a cell phone is being used. The second drawback is simply screen real estate and the interface to get to it. PDAs could do exactly what is being proposed, but they didn't because it was hard to use a handheld device in that manner. Sure handheld gaming devices exist and are used... but they have buttons and layouts specifically tailored to using the device as a game. The same goes for cell phones, PDAs, and ebook readers. You can play games on cell phones, but not easily and the power usage sucks up the battery. The new format proposal looks to do exactly the same thing to ebook readers. Congratulations, you just re-invented the N-Gage.

    The major "killer app" in the ebook market that no one is mentioning is really quite simple. It isn't a killer display (black and white is fine for books), it isn't a fancy new display (though color would be nice, it would also be mostly useless and a major expense), and it isn't a whiz-bang new DRMed file format. What is missing from the ebook marketplace is simply a universal storefront. Amazon books only work with the kindle. Sony's store only works with their ebook readers. The same for most other ebook stores (with a wider list of readers that can use their store... but a lower percentage of people who actually have those readers). DRM has fractured the marketplace, but selling to the entire install base of ebook readers is really quite simple because all ebook readers out there can read non-DRMed files. It is only the stores that are enforcing DRM. The first store to offer a wide selection of books in non-DRMed format at reasonable prices will suddenly be able to sell to 100% of people interested in ebooks and steal market share from everyone else out there.

    I could rant on this subject for days, but the bottom line is: I can get almost any book out there for free from pirates, and I don't have to worry about losing those books when I migrate from my Sony Reader to whatever device I might end up using next (the battery is finally dying). However, I've bought most of my books from the Baen store, because I can get them fast, easily, and with good proofreading. It is easier to read them and find them, and they aren't some OCRed crap with forced line breaks and errors. Publishers have to understand that on the web, they're not competing against the price and convenience other publishers, they're competing against some random pirate scanning in a copy of their book and giving it away for free. If it isn't easy to find a copy of their book that will work on my system for a reasonable price there ($15 for a paperback selling for $8 at the local bookstore?) there is no reason to give them money.

    That said, there is one thing I can see some value in for the proposed format: daily deliverables. This is something that isn't done all that well in current generation ebook reade

  • Re:nope (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aaandre (526056) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @08:56PM (#30383576)

    Or, license the format for a year, start selling devices they control, then after reaching critical mass, update the format on their devices and lock everyone else out.

    There's no lows corporations will not sink to, as long as they turn profit in a way that's marginally legal or cheaper (incl. legal fees) than the alternative.

    This is corporate morality by definition.

  • by sznupi (719324) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:13PM (#30383726) Homepage

    They tend to also forget that LCD, some of them color capable, ebook readers were the norm. They were simply ignored.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @09:26PM (#30383844) Homepage Journal

    You would think someone would first concentrate on coming out with a device that was actually a worthy successor to the "book" before they start adding color and dancing ponies.

    I really don't believe anyone involved in the design and manufacture of the current crop of ebook readers is actually an avid reader.

  • by gbarules2999 (1440265) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @10:14PM (#30384164)
    What keeps me in the iTunes ecosystem is the podcast section where you get a centralized database of different media you can listen to for free. If one of these readers made an open format for reading blogs or other podcast equivalents in the literary world (serial novels?) so that I can download and read a ton of content I may just be persuaded to buy one. That's something a real, physical book cannot do economically.

    Well, that's after they come down in price. Those things are expensive!
  • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:34PM (#30384668)

    Have you actually tried any of the current crop of ebook readers?

    Because, as an avid reader, I love my ebook reader, and it isn't even close to one of the current crop.

    These "Five Top Publishers" are going to come up with a NEW device to rival the Kindle in such a core area as... what, newspaper subscriptions? That's sort of a "Yeah, you could probably do that too, why not offer it?" addition to the Kindle.

    They also obviously have absolutely no idea why E-Ink is so popular over LCD screens (like their device will certainly be based on) - and it is not Kindle's E-ink display, by the way, you would think a newspaper publisher could get that right, but maybe that's indicative of why they are in decline? E-Ink is so popular even though it is incredibly more expensive because it is easy to read. Like the name implies, it is virtually the same as reading a book. You get a few more barely noticeable jaggies than straight print would give you, and none of the harshness or flicker of an LCD.

    So what do they plan to do? Why, introduce harshness and flicker! And poor battery life, of course. Idiots. Now if they solved the technical hurdles to creating a color e-ink display that would be eniterly different, and their devices would indeed be beautiful. But I'm pretty sure they haven't done that.

    Adding the media content and all that, well they'll just be selling a locked-down internet tablet at that point. Why would someone buy their locked down internet tablet when they could almost certainly get an unlocked tablet (basically a netbook) for less (probably)?

    It really sounds to me like they don't have a clue what they are doing, and the only way it will work is if they only sell their content over these devices. If they do that, I give them a 50/50 chance of either going bankrupt or changing the way we view periodicals. Either way I still won't be buying them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:39PM (#30384688)

    Unless and until an e-newspaper-reader is literally the size of a printed newspaper, the point still stands.

    What, they're going to "precisely reproduce the print experience and layout" on a device that, if they are lucky, is a quarter the size of a regular newspaper and lower resolution too? That's nuts. Either they are going to miserably fail at "precisely reproducing the print experience and layout", or the form factor is going to be different. Furthermore, users can have radically different preferences. Some want large text with less per page, some like ample text with tiny font size. They're going to take that advantage of electronic devices versus paper away?

  • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:41PM (#30384700)

    Get a Sony, all the gorious E-ink, none of the lock-in.

    I know, I said Sony, miracles can happen all right!

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