Will Print Magazines Be No More? Magazine Publishers Partner Up for Digital Distribution


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We've been hearing rumors about magazine publishers working together to take their content digital, and it sounds like even the glossies will soon be found on e-readers. Time Warner, Conde Nast, Meredith, Hearst and News Corp. have officially joined forces to create a new way to distribute digital versions of magazines. But just because they say they will doesn't mean they can - or in some cases, even should.According to the press release, "The goal of this digital initiative is fourfold, to create: a highly featured common reading application capable of rendering the distinctive look and feel of each publication; a robust publishing platform optimized for multiple devices, operating systems and screen sizes; a consumer storefront offering an extensive selection of reading options; and a rich array of innovative advertising opportunities."

Those are big goals for a broad range of readers and magazines - and that'll take a long time to hammer out as it will impact everything on the business end and the electronics end. But the big publishers say they're willing to work with one another to come up with a plan to implement, so it's a sign that we'll eventually see magazines for e-readers.

As Gizmodo points out, nothing is for sure yet - there are no standards for creating content or how it'll work with various readers. Plus, the e-readers that are currently on the market aren't the best for reading colorful, image-packed magazines, and navigating content often created to be scanned rather than read. We'd most likely need to see these on the next generation of color e-readers to feel like we're not losing out on visual content. Perhaps magazines with longer articles and more serious content would work, while the magazines for short attention spans will stay in printed format.

Back in March, it was Hearst that announced plans to develop an e-reader for magazines, but we haven't heard a whisper of that since. If the Apple Tablet pans out, that might be the best possible solution for now, and we hear that Apple is talking with publishers about getting content into the iTunes store.

e-Readers aside, the joint effort would also put magazine content onto other digital devices:

"For the consumer, this digital initiative will provide access to an extraordinary selection of engaging content products, all customized for easy download on the device of their choice, including smartphones, e-readers and laptops," explained John Squires, the venture's interim managing director. "Once purchased, this content will be 'unlocked' for consumers to enjoy anywhere, anytime, on any platform."

Here's a generic demo of what a magazine on an e-reader would look like. Nothing very spectacular and all within what we would imagine it to be.

We'll wait to see what becomes of this partnership, but we can say with near certainty that magazines, like newspapers and books, will begin to move away from printed format and onto digital format, even if many still stay in printed format. The environmental impact of this still needs research. In some cases, reading content on a device - especially a super energy-sipping one like the latest Kindle - is greener than getting it in printed format.

However, just how much energy and electronics will be consumed as a combined audience of 144.6 million readers shift to getting their magazines in digital format creates a big question for how eco-friendly a new form of distribution will be.

For magazines like Sports Illustrated which comes out weekly, something as shown above might be quite a bit greener since it means less printed material to be recycled weekly, far less color ink being used, and less fuel being used to ship paper so often. Also the format of the magazine with its short articles and lots of images would be easily translated to a reading device. Indeed, the demo above shows how easy it could be to navigate through the magazine on a touchscreen e-reader (the demo just screams Apple Tablet...). But the numbers won't pan out the same in all cases. We'd love to see the publishing companies come out with life cycle analyses for the various magazines they produce.

More on Switching to Digital Reading
Read Online or In Print: What's the Greener Way to Get Your News?
What's the Eco-Impact of California's Plan to Ditch School Textbooks for eBooks?
How Will Designers Shape The Future of Digital Reading?

Tags: Books | Electronics | Gadgets