Yesterday, at mediabistro.com’s eBook Summit, we were eager to hear what Joshua Benton of the Nieman Journalism Lab had to say about e-readers and the future of newspapers.
Benton said he understood why those in the media held the Kindle, Amazon’s e-reader product, out as the possible savior of the industry — since Kindle users were willing to pay for newspaper subscriptions while online readers were not. But this theory fails because Kindle users represent such a small part of total number people who read the news. “It’s a way to get marginal income from a small percentage of people who are willing to pay for news,” he said.
Also, the Kindle itself is not a good tool for reading newspapers, and certainly not magazines. There are additional features e-readers would need in order to make good news reading devices, like a fast connection, alerts and multimedia capabilities. “E-readers will become a mainstream category when they become excellent web devices,” Benton said. However, when that happens, “the news business model for e-readers collapses.”
Guess as far as Benton is concerned, e-readers won’t be the savior of the print news industry that everyone is hoping they will be. Instead, newspapers and magazines will become smaller, more expensive and “more elite products,” and most people will still get their news for free from the Web.
And as we wrap up our coverage of the eBook Summit, check out some photos from the event yesterday and today.