Hearst Building A Kindle For Magazines


Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader is pretty good for reading books, but lousy for magazines. So Hearst is building its own, bigger wireless e-reader, according to Fortune. Wow!

According to industry insiders, Hearst, which publishes magazines ranging from Cosmopolitan to Esquire and newspapers including the financially imperiled San Francisco Chronicle, has developed a wireless e-reader with a large-format screen suited to the reading and advertising requirements of newspapers and magazines. The device and underlying technology, which other publishers will be allowed to adapt, is likely to debut this year.

Few details, but it seems like the Hearst e-reader will be about the size of a sheet of paper — much larger than the Kindle’s 6-inch screen. This will accommodate more text and pictures, but also — more important — ads. It will also probably launch in black-and-white, like the Kindle, with colour coming later, according to Fortune.

We agree that the Kindle isn’t best-suited for magazines, and that magazine publishers will eventually have to figure out a way to shift their businesses to digital. But we’re not sold on this idea yet.

It might work for text-heavy magazines like The Economist. But they’re getting marginalized by the Web already. Meanwhile, black-and-white e-ink displays like the Kindle’s offer nothing for glossy lifestyle mags, where the big, colourful photos are most of the attraction.

Once colour e-reader screen tech is more accessible, there might be a market for a thin, colourful tablet for consuming electronic media. But that’s a market where Hearst won’t just be competing with the Kindle, but likely some tablet devices from companies like Apple (AAPL). (Who could easily blow anything Hearst builds out of the water.)

Maybe they’re really onto something big. But it seems that the Hearsts of the world should focus on making their content available on as many digital platforms as possible, with as much quality as possible — and not making big bets outside their core competency, like trying to get into the hardware business.