In the past few years there has been a lot of talk about how newspapers and magazines are being replaced by online content, and that print media will soon be a dead industry. While it is true that the game is changing, and not many of the changes are good for the big publishers, keep in mind that devices like the iPad, Kindle, and iPhone open up a whole new market for them. Consider these examples from my own life:
1. I have read the print version Wall Street Journal over the years at libraries, hotels, and airports but never subscribed to it. I just don’t have the time to sit and read it in my house each day. I did try subscribing to the online version online for a year, but found most days I did not have time to read it. Now, I subscribe on my Kindle, and am very happy with my subscription. I bring my Kindle with my everywhere, so although I don’t read the Wall Street Journal every day, I love having it available when I have free time. Yes, reading it on my Kindle screen is even worse than my PC screen, but overall I enjoy it much more because of how much I just appreciate being able to read it whenever and wherever I want. If I am waiting at an airport, I would probably buy the print edition that day instead of reading it on my Kindle, but that does not make me regret my electronic subscription in any way. My point with all of this is that for 25 years I had loved the Wall Street Journal but never paid to subscribe. Then, the day I bought my Kindle, I became a paid subscriber.
2. For the past 20 years, I read an average of only 2-3 books a year, most of which were gifts people gave me. Since I bought my Kindle, I read 2-3 books per month (mostly business books, usually $10-$15 each), because having them on my Kindle allows me to read them at more opportune times. I especially love not having to bring a stack of books with me when I go on vacation, and not having to worry about being in a situation where I run out of books to read.
3. After I bought my Kindle, I canceled all of my print magazine subscriptions and subscribed to those same magazines on my Kindle instead. An extra benefit to this is that if I ever move, I don’t need to deal with changing the address for all of my magazine subscriptions. And, because I love reading on my Kindle so much, I even subscribed to a bunch of new magazines that I never subscribed to before.
4. Sometime when I am reading a book or magazine article on my Kindle, the author recommends a related book, and I buy it. In the past, I probably would have written down the book name and remembered to go to a book store and buy it (or order it online), but the Kindle allows this with a few clicks, so I do it.
5. I subscribe to several blogs on my Kindle, such as TechCrunch.com. I used to read these blogs online for free, but I now pay a small fee (like $2/month) for the convenience to read them on my Kindle. In fact, people can even subscribe to my blog on their Kindle. Before devices like the Kindle came out, who would have thought people would pay to read blogs?
I know all of my usage is not typical of the normal reader, but soon, books and magazines and newspapers will be available in multimedia form, so for example when you read about Steve Jobs giving a news conference to launch the new iPad 2.0 5G 3D solar powered model, you will be able to click on a highlights video of his speech, download the audio file, view a photo of the new device, or maybe try a 3D holographic demo of it. All of this will make the books/magazines/newspapers much more enticing and competitive, and without the high costs of the old school printing and distribution, publishers might be able to make the same profit as they did back in their glory days.
It is hard to predict the future of any industry, but it is very possible the publishing industry may adapt to all the new technology and change along with the times, avoiding the collapse that many people are talking about.