Digital paper still isn't good enough
Today I got an email from the ACM regarding the ACM queue magazine I get as part of my membership. Seems that they are not going to print the paper copy any more. The reasons they give sound like they paid a marketing consultant to come up with them:
"In response to a growing demand to offer a richer, more robust online presence"
"in response to a changing business environment for specialized print magazines"
Whilst I can appreciate the first point its certainly no reason to drop the print issue. The second point I suspect actually means "we are not making enough (any) profit on this 'free' magazine even though its usually full of paid ads". Now I certainly don't see why any business should continue to make a product if there is no money in it for them but this is one of those times that you should just come out and say it.
The problem, for me, is that for me magazines are some of the few times I am away from the computer. I spend most of my day in front of one of my machines so in bed, in the little boys room, on a plane etc are the places where I catch up. Whilst I could take my laptop to those places its not as portable as a paper magazine (and you can't tear it up into little square if you are out of toilet paper!).
I've seen a couple of magazines go this way in the last few years so I suspect its a trend which is going to catch on. Several of the magazines I read regularly are already offered in a digital version though oddly enough like e-books very few of them are offered cheaper. For example Reader Digest Paper costs $1.25 per issue. Readers Digest Kindle Edition costs $1.25 per issue. I doubt if electronic delivery can be more expensive that physical delivery and I'm sure that the electronic copy has all the same ads so where is the savings to me? Come on Amazon make it worth my while if you want me to pay $400 for your Kindle.
Even worse it appears that every magazine publisher wants you to read the magazine THEIR way. Some I have tried have their own viewer applications, others let you download PDFs of the magazine which are great if you have a 17"+ monitor to read it on. Amazon appears to have a proprietary format which means that right now there is almost no magazines or newspapers available. I suspect the range of books is equally a small percentage of the total out there though it looks like they are somewhere around 80k books which should be enough to keep people busy for a while.
The final failure point for me is a lack of color. Magazines add a lot of value with diagrams and images and right now there's no color devices out there. Hopefully this will change soon - there is speculation on several. Sadly its hard to see all of these in one place to know what form factor is good and what display size will work for you. Resolution and contrast are improving over older models but we are still a long way from the paper printing so having a screen that is smaller than the average current book doesn't cut it for me. I'm so tempted to order a Kindle but my gut feel is that it will annoy me and not give me $400 worth of value.