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Something rather ground-breaking is about to happen.
A news magazine that has been described as "the biggest and most prominent weekly" is ditching its print edition in favour of an all-electronic format.
I'm talking about NewsWeek magazine, a publication that has been delivered on dead-tree flesh for almost eighty years.
Could this move see the start of a trend that will rapidly turn our mainstream media away from the costly and wasteful practice of printing news on paper?
It's starting to look that way, with the UK Guardian also rumoured to be ditching the trees in favour of electrons.
With very capable and ergonomically brilliant e-Readers now selling for less than US$100, and most smartphones doing a credible job of displaying content these days, the writing is pretty much on the wall for print.
Of course we'll still see the nation's magazine racks filled with glossy periodicals for some time to come, however I expect that things will soon shift to an e-format far more quickly that many are expecting.
Let's face it, going 'e' can produce some massive savings for publishers -- savings that can go a long way to preserving a failing bottom-line.
Advertisers can also benefit from rich-media presentations and active hypertext links through to their own websites or a point of sale.
e-editions can also be republished and updated "on demand", rather than being tied to a fixed publishing schedule -- something that is becoming increasingly important in an era when the focus is on the 'new' in news.
I'll go out on a limb here and predict that within 12 months, we'll start seeing special offers from some newspaper and magazines whereby those who sign up for a 2-year subscription will get a free e-reader.
I used to think that 'e' would never be a match for tree-pulp but now I'm starting to change my mind.
With e-readers getting ever smaller, ever lighter and ever more affordable, I suspect that it won't be long before they're as ubiquitous as smartphones. In fact, I wonder if the real turning point might be when we get smartphones which offer e-ink displays in some form-factor that allows a paper-back sized screen to be stowed in a much smaller physical space. Perhaps fold-out or roll-up screens will be the answer.
Or is the form-factor really such an issue?
After all, books -- even paperbacks -- have a rather bulky form-factor. Just try carrying a copy of War and Peace around in your back pocket. By comparison, something like the new Kindle PaperWhite seems positively diminutive.
I'd like to know how many readers already have e-readers, what they are and how often they use them.
How many readers still rely heavily on printed editions of a newspaper and how many already get most of their media via the Net -- reading it on a computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone or e-reader?
What percentage of our newspapers and magazines will have ditched their print editions in another year, another two years, another five years perhaps?
And, given this shift away from printed media -- what does this mean for NZ's forestry industry?
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