The demise of print

Amazon Kindle recently introduced their new and improved Kindle 2 wireless reading device which appears to be an improvement over the original design. Although not yet available in Canada (what’s new!) the Kindle appears to be the precursor to a new wave in data distribution and may eventually replace the printed page and a number of other devices including iPods, laptop computers and the ubiquitous Blackberry. Of course, this won’t happen overnight and it may not be the Kindle that does the job but it points in the direction we’re heading and gives us a peek at how we may read books, newspapers, magazines, flyers and anything else presently printed on paper. Imagine plugging the device into a dock connected to the internet, downloading your customised daily paper or magazine subscription and reading it when convenient. Want to buy a paper or magazine during the day? Pay the vendor, plug your unit into the available dock and download to your device. Easy and cheap. Imagine the savings for paper, ink, distribution and all the other costs applied to printed materials. Engineers are presently working on something called e-paper which may make hardware like the Kindle even more portable than the paperback sized units they presently are. The next wave of hardware might do to the publishing companies what MP3s and the iPod have done to the music industry, anyone will be able to publish and sell their books, manuals and short stories online without having to find a publisher to print and distribute their materials. That can be done now of course using PDFs and a web site, but the distribution, payment systems and display options are lacking and preclude most of us from actively purchasing our reading materials that way. Wouldn’t it be great to have one piece of hardware that does it all…music, books, telephone, internet, texting and more. I wonder how people will use this future device to annoy me on the Westcoast Express?


  1. Francis Lemieux   •  

    There would be downsides. You would have to buy the thing, carry it around with you and worry about it. Like laptops and cel phones, new models will become obsolete after a year or so. How would the newspapers and other media make money if their publications are free? Ads I guess. I guess the $1 charged for a paper doesn’t come close to paying for the cost to print it.

    • admin   •     Author

      The portability factor will be addressed as e-paper is developed to fold and tuck into a pocket, purse or briefcase. Flexibility is proving to be more challenging to engineers than any other issue which is what is holding up progress and more acceptance of portable reading devices for the reasons you noted. Publications would continue to charge for their products although they would cost less due to the lack of print costs and greatly reduced distribution fees. Advertising would still play an important part of most publications because, as you also mentioned, the cost of a newspaper may not even cover the cost of newsprint much less the production costs. I have no doubt the technology will evolve much as we’ve seen the phonograph record evolve into the MP3 player over the last 20 years.

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