How Has the Kindle Affected Journalism?
With Amazon’s 2007 release of the first Kindle e-reader offering a new way to experience content, some technology watchers thought the device might spark a turnaround in declining newspaper and magazine circulations.
It’s not yet clear if this really has been the case. However, the Kindle has offered journalists new ways to publish and distribute their work, particularly in forms that don’t fit the economic and physical constraints on traditional print.
In theory, having newspapers available on the Kindle could attract new readers who don’t like the cost or inconvenience or buying or subscribing to a printed edition. In practice there’s little clear evidence that this is the case.
Most newspaper circulation figures for electronic editions lump website, tablet and Kindle subscriptions together, making it hard to isolate Kindle figures. Sources such as the Nieman Journalism Lab note that the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are significantly ahead of other newspapers on Kindle sales, likely because they draw both national and international interest.
Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review questions whether newspapers will be able to find a price point that is low enough to attract subscribers, but high enough to make up for the fact that Kindle editions don’t bring in ad revenue.
The display technology used in the Kindle makes reading more pleasurable and less taxing on the eyes than a traditional computer screen. This can mean the Kindle reverses one of the disadvantages of the Internet for longform, magazine-style journalism — the fact that lengthy articles are less appealing online.
Reader interest in using the Kindle for lengthy pieces is shown by the range of Web browser tools for automatically sending the text on a page to the Kindle , a feature Amazon itself began offering in March 2013.
Because publishing on the Kindle doesn’t involve manufacturing printed books, the page count has no direct effect on the price. This gives publishers more options to produce books of different lengths at a viable price. In turn, this means journalists and publisher can produce compilation books of their past articles at a relatively low cost.
Amazon offers a special program called Kindle Singles for people who want to publish non-fiction pieces that are long enough to sell by themselves, but too short to be considered a “full length” book.
As of March 2013, such titles usually range from about one to three dollars, with the writer receiving a 70 percent royalty. Unlike other titles published on the Kindle, titles in the Singles program must be selected for publication by Amazon, a move intended as a form of quality control.
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