The New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters today, writing in the Bits feature, says that magazine publishers "see tremendous potential in the Fire and hope that the device can do for their business what the Kindle did for books: bring droves of new customers into a business that is having difficulty retaining its traditional print readers."
I think that overstates things a bit, especially knowing how conservative most publishers are. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that publishers would like to see both new competition for Apple, as well as a generation expansion of the tablet publishing platform.
You can read his entire post here.
Peters main points to support his claim is that new competition from Amazon's Kindle would give publishers more leverage with Apple, that they will be able to charge higher prices for their magazines through Amazon, and that Amazon's newsstand will help magazine publisher's apps stand out from the general clutter found in Apple's App Store (he does point out that Apple will have a newsstand soon, as well).
Peters gets a quote from Bob Sauerberg, president of Condé Nast, that supports the clutter argument, but otherwise the post is free of actual input from publishers.
I think it is fair to say that all publishers would love an environment where the tech giants were beating themselves silly to the point where they would actually care what lowly magazine publishers have to say. But it is also true that publishers would also like to be able to deal with only one OS, one store, one, easy way to get their digital products to market. Unfortunately, with competition comes complexity.
What the NYT article fails to mention is the number of publishers currently working with Amazon.com directly now. There are only 129 Kindle Edition magazines currently available in the online retail store (obviously there are more through the Android app side). That means that publishers have no experience with Amazon when it comes to applications – though I think that if Amazon works hard they could use this to their advantage.
For me, though, the big issue remains the reader experience. Have you read the reviews from readers inside Amazon.com? They are very illuminating. This one is talking about The Economist's Kindle Edition, but it could easily be talking about almost any big name magazine:
The subscription price is WAY out of line compared to what you can find on the web. Plus, the Economists' charts and graphs are WAY too small to read. What a disappointment.
The Kindle Fire, though a color display tablet, is only 1 inch larger diagonally than the standard sized Kindle so the same size issues inherent in the e-ink Kindle will be there in the Kindle Fire (the Kindle DX, on the other hand, has a display about the same size as the iPad).
Further, the idea that there is a magazine market out there somewhere where readers will be willing to pay any price to access their digital publishing product they are clearly smoking something.
If it sounds like I am down on the Kindle Fire you are wrong. I think this could be a good development for the industry because I believe Amazon.com can sell – and as anyone who reads TNM know, I'm solidly pro-sales!
My two major concerns right now about the Kindle Fire are the size of the display (it promotes a Kindle Edition approach to digital publishing) and it's OS (a customized version of Android). I think life is easier for publishers when they can design for a single for factor, and when they don't have an endless number of different operating systems they have to deal with.
From my experience publishers don't like to deal with their printers, why should we expect them to like dealing with tech companies and online retailers? (Besides, the big printers often come to visit them in person, bearing skybox ticket to the Yankees, Cubs or Dodgers. Do you think Tim Cook, Larry Page or Jeff Bezos will come bearing gifts?)