Did you know that in addition to its odd pay-per-blog scheme, Amazon’s Kindle also offers readers a chance to pay to read online newspapers? We haven’t spent time talking about it, because it’s so clearly a non-starter.
But for the record: If you want to read the New York Times on your Kindle, you can pay $14 a month for a subscription — or you can read it for free, using the Kindle’s built-in web browser and all-you-can-eat wireless access. (Other papers like the Wall Street Journal, le Monde, etc, are also available at different but equally preposterous price points.)
The only real riddle here is why Amazon even bothered to launch the Kindle with this offering — we imagine it’s because they structured some of these deals a couple of years ago, when publications like the Times were still trying to sell online subscriptions. Perhaps the contracts compelled Amazon to offer them in late 2007, even though it’s clear that paid subscriptions for Web content isn’t going to work.
Anyway. The existence of the plan has gulled at least one blogger, MediaNation’s Dan Kennedy, into imagining that the Kindle will help save the newspaper industry. Why? Because it offers readers the chance to pay to read, which may “offer a possible alternative to the free, Web-based regime that has been such a boon to consumers and a bane to publishers.” In the spirit of the holidays, we’re going to leave it that.
Update: We had a pang of regret after publishing this — what if users who paid for the NYT on Kindle actually got something of value, like a layout that was easier on the eyes than the free web version? We resolved to find out for ourselves, and after a bit of trouble (our Kindle had already quit on us) we ordered an NYT subscription.
We are happy/disappointed to report that the paid NYT version is worse than the free one: The layout is just as clumsy as the web browser version, if not more so. The real problem: Since the paid version is automatically beamed to your reader once a day, you are guaranteed to be reading yesterday’s… non-news. If you’d like to see what’s actually happening in the world, the Kindle insists that you leave your paid subscription — and check out the free version at nyt.com.
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