I was sorry to hear that Amazon plans to cut back on selling newspapers and magazines for the Kindle sometime next year, according to Jim Milliot of Publishers Weekly. The reason, I think, was the combination of a really bad deal for readers along with a recognition that the Kindle can’t compete with the whiz-bang color photos and multimedia that newspapers and magazines offer in their regular digital products.
Why are Kindle newspapers and magazines a loser for readers? Because you have to pay for the Kindle version over and above what you’re already paying for your digital subscription. A subscription to The New York Times on Kindle, for instance, costs $20 a month, and it makes no difference whether you’re already a Times subscriber.
On the rare occasions when I fly or take the Amtrak, I’ll buy that day’s Times for Kindle for $1. It downloads fully, so you don’t need wifi once it’s on your device. And I found it to be a pleasurable reading experience. Now, I like photography, and the small black-and-white photos you get on Kindle are no match for reading the Times on my iPad, or in print. But the Kindle provides a focused reading experience more akin to print than to digital, without the constant temptation to check your email or share an article on social media. Yet it is certainly not worth a separate subscription over and above what I’m already paying.
The Publishers Weekly article says that Kindle newspapers and magazines aren’t going away entirely. Reportedly “hundreds” of titles will be available for members of Kindle Unlimited, who pay $10 a month for access to a wide range of books and periodicals. But I think it’s still to be determined if you’ll be able to download a quality newspaper every day as part of that fee, especially since that’s only half what you’d pay for the Times alone right now.
Back in 2009, I suggested that The Boston Globe give away Kindles to subscribers. Instead, two years later the Globe started making its move toward paid digital subscriptions, which has been the paper’s salvation. I still like using my Kindle to read books, but most of us are far more likely to consume news on our phones.
I won’t call the semi-demise of Kindle newspapers a lost opportunity; it’s more a matter of changes in what we expect from our devices. The next time I take the Amtrak, though, I guess I’m going to have to find a Hudson News so that I can buy a print paper.