The Skiff Reader – a saviour for newspapers?

The Guardian has a profile today of the Skiff electronic reader. The article says some of the world’s biggest newspaper groups are eyeing the device.

Gil Fuchsberg, the former journalist and new media deal-maker who has overseen Skiff from its origins as an R&D project within Hearst Corporation, argues that the time is right for magazines and newspapers to follow books, which are available on electronic readers such as Kindle. Fuchsberg says he looks forward to travelling on the tube in London surrounded by commuters reading touchscreen tablets.

Personally I don’t think Mr Fuchsberg is going to see that sight.

At one point I thought there might be a role for a device like this, but that was more than five years ago – when the digital media landscape was less developed. If people are going to consume news digitally they are going to do it on whatever mobile digital device they currently own (that also does video, audio and is in colour!) or on one they purchase that does everything else too – newspapers are not books – they can’t be treated in a similar way. People may pay for an e-reader for books because they are used to paying for them in the first place. Books have a different place in people’s lives. They won’t pay for a special device for newspapers because they are used to getting that for free (aside from connection charges).

The only market this device has is the group that still buys newspapers. Why re-invent the wheel for them – they already buy your device (a newspaper). The Skiff is about selling hardware not content. This is not the solution – newspapers steer clear!

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