Looking to the future of e-readers

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As this week’s revelation of Rupert Murdoch’s plot with Microsoft to remove his newspapers’ content from Google’s index arguably show, publishers are getting increasingly desperate in their attempts to make money from the web. As the digital chief of one large ad agency group told me this week: “There is no evidence from the last 10 years that ad-supported [online news] does work.”

No wonder, then, that many newspaper and magazine people go dewy-eyed at the mention of e-readers, which offer a clean sheet of (electronic) paper after the digital disasters of the past.

But while Amazon’s Kindle, the current market leader, offers many things that publishers like – not least a “walled garden” store that makes it hard to pirate e-books or read news for free on the open internet – it was designed for books, not recreating the experience of flicking through a magazine. No wonder some publishers are ganging together to explore alternatives, to create what some have called an “iTunes for magazines”.

Today’s FT Weekend Magazine– an innovation special, no less – explores the future for e-readers, from the perspective of publishers, manufacturers and consumers:

“We’ve known for more than a decade an e-reader product would offer the same satisfying product” as reading a newspaper, Arthur Sulzberger Jr, chairman and publisher of the New York Times, said earlier this year. “That dream continues to get closer to realisation.”

Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian editor who notoriously said in 2005 that his newspaper had probably bought its last printing presses, says such a device is needed “increasingly urgently” if newspapers are to survive.

Conveniently demonstrating the need for new e-reader innovations, the feature’s graphics and layout mean it looks better in print than online – but you can still read the full story here.

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