Is Big-Screen Kindle Subject of May 6 Amazon Press Conference?

What do an article in the New York Times and an emailed invitation to an press conference have in common? That’s what we’d like to know, and that’s why we’ll be at the door mid-morning Wednesday, May 6th.

We’re not sure if Las Vegas posts odds for stuff like this, but if we were gamblers we’d put a few chips on two possible announcements. The first is that Amazon will be producing a tablet-sized Kindle dedicated to newspaper and magazine reading. The second is that Amazon is teaming up with a major newspaper or magazine publisher to bring you a digital edition of your daily paper or favorite magazine.

That brings us to the Times’s article, Looking to Big-Screen E-Readers to Help Save the Daily Press by Brad Stone. The gist? “Now the recession-ravaged newspaper and magazine industries are hoping for their own knight in shining digital armor, in the form of portable reading devices with big screens.”

“These devices from Amazon and other manufacturers offer an almost irresistible proposition to newspaper and magazine industries. They would allow publishers to save millions on the cost of printing and distributing their publications, at precisely a time when their businesses are under historic levels of pressure.”

For those who follow our postings, most of the information in Stone’s piece will be familiar. For instance: “These new gadgets, with screens roughly the size of a standard sheet of paper, could present much of the editorial and advertising content of traditional periodicals in generally the same format as they appear in print.” Check out our pieces about Plastic Logic’s as yet unnamed device and the iRex 1000. The former is notable because of its state-of-the-art screen technology, the latter because it has successfully carried newspaper and magazines for a long time and actually beaten Kindle at its own game.

Stone’s mention of News Corp’s interest developing a device for its publications is detailed in a recent piece asking if that company’s boss Rupert Murdoch is “ready to get E-ink on his fingers“.

And of course, for many of our readers, Amazon’s plans for large screen Kindles are old news.

Stone accurately observes that this new generation of tablet-sized readers offers publishers an opportunity “to rethink their strategy in a rapidly evolving digital world. The move by newspapers and magazines to make their material freely available on the Web is now viewed by many as a critical blunder that encouraged readers to stop paying for the print versions.” But most intriguing of all is his speculation that newspaper and magazine publishers might “borrow from the cellphone model and offer specialized reading devices free or at a discount to people who commit to, say, a one-year subscription.”

For some time we have been invoking the spirit of King Gillette, inventor of the modern safety razor, whose motto and fabulously successful approach to fame and fortune was to “Give away the razor and sell ’em the blades.” You can read all about that here, and it just may be an idea whose time has come.

Our thumbs are limber for an instant posting after Amazon’s press conference. But it won’t surprise us if there are no surprises.



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