Some of you know that there’s a company — E.Ink — making small quantities of an extremely thin, extremely flexible computer display. The Wall Street Journal carries a story today about the company’s prediction that within five years, people will buy a booklet of this stuff and download a copy of the day’s newspaper to it.
Color me skeptical. This might be fine (for some small value of “fine”) if you’re a subscriber to the paper, but it does kind of kill the newsstand purchase. “That’ll be 50 cents for today’s paper and $1000 for the reader, buddy.”
And like most bad ideas of this ilk, the impetus seems to be publishers’ desire to cut cost, not reader demand for a new service or gadget. Check this quote:
“Delivery and printing makes up well over half the expenses at any newspaper,” says Ken Bronfin, president of Hearst Interactive Media. (Parent Hearst [an investor in E.Ink] publishes the San Francisco Chronicle and other dailies.) “The idea of eliminating that cost, to a degree, is a dream for any company. It’s a big, big idea.”
Remember: publishers were attracted to the Net because they saw it as a way to cut their distribution costs. No one told them that servers, software and bandwidth were expensive, too. Nice to know they were paying attention…