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Publishers to develop rival to Kindle

December 8, 2009 |  1:14 pm
Newspaper Stand in New York
Magazine and newspaper kiosks like this one in New York may become obsolete in the digital age. Credit: j_bary via Flickr.

Publishers have been grumbling for some time about Amazon.com's grip on the digital book, newspaper and magazine market. Today, they're doing something about it.

Five major publishers -- including Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp. and Time Inc. -- announced they will join forces to develop a technology format and online storefront to rival Amazon.com's Kindle. The reason: Publishers want to be able to set their own terms, including retail prices and how much of that money they get to keep.

Newspaper and magazine publishers have openly chafed at getting 30% of the sale of their content on Amazon's Kindle. And book publishers worry that Amazon's $9.99 pricing for newly released bestsellers could erode the more lucrative market for hardcover books that have sold for $25 or more.

The companies involved in today's announcement are primarily magazine and newspaper publishers, but said their venture would also apply to comics, books or other media.

For readers, the venture promises the ability to buy content once and then being able to read it on multiple devices. Currently, newspapers purchased on the Kindle cannot be read on Sony's Reader, for example.

"Once purchased, this content will be 'unlocked' for consumers to enjoy anywhere, anytime, on any platform," said John Squires, the group's managing director.

The publishers also envision a color screen that would be able to play video and audio, allowing them to embed "highly engaging, interactive" ads to supplement their revenue. To get an idea of how such content would look on next-generation touch-screen devices, check out this Sports Illustrated video demo.

They did not announce technology partners, but said they expect to open a storefront late next year.

-- Alex Pham

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.

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