Electronic Reading Devices: E-Readers’ Effect on Print

The iRiver Story is demonstrated during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month.

Barnes & Noble nook e-reader.

The QUE proReader was one of a multitude of electronic readers that generated a lot of buzz at the CES event in January.

IN THE beginning, there was the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader heading the field of electronic reading devices. In 2009, Barnes & Noble made a splash with its critically acclaimed “nook” e-book device.

Then there was the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last month, which may prove to be the seminal moment that triggered the e-reader explosion. According to the CES Website, there were 23 companies showcasing their wares in the eBook TechZone. There is now a multitude of e-readers for book, magazine and newspaper digital content, ranging in price from $199 to $800 and above.

You can’t keep track of the offerings without an e-scorecard: the Skiff reader, Samsung e6, QUE proReader, Entourage eDge, iRiver Story and Aluratek Libre Pro, not to mention the new Sony Daily Edition. The Sony Daily Edition allows users to access content, including the Wall Street Journal and New York Post (a partnership with Rupert Murdoch) from the Sony store via wireless connectivity. And these offerings are only the tip of the e-reader iceberg.

It’s not just technology mavens who are courting the new media outlet. In December, the five families of publishing, so to speak—Time Inc., Condé Nast, Hearst, News Corp. and Meredith—formed an independent venture to develop open standards for a new digital storefront and related technology, allowing consumers to access media content from these heavyweights via digital devices. Time Inc. also unveiled a prototype of its Sports Illustrated title on a tablet device, complete with video clips and other multimedia functions.

A One-Two Punch

For printers and many ink-on-paper publishers of catalogs, magazines and books, the trend is troubling. Advertising pages were dwindling long before the onslaught of e-readers as advertisers curtailed their spending in the traditional hard copy medium because: a) they were dialing back on spending due to the economy and b) they were interested in pursuing electronic alternatives. Newspapers were the biggest victims of the electronic age, as free content burned a hole through their tenuous business models.

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