With tablet computing and e-books ranked among the top 5 most challenging technologies confronting the paper industry, according to Pira International's 10-year forecast, it's important to know how these gadgets are altering information delivery.
Over the last year, the iPad tablet computer has gained attention for the technological jump it represents. In the paper industry, though, the rush to buy the iPad has seemed somewhat ominous. That's because, unlike other computers, tablets aren't connected to printers, so consumers won't be printing out as many pages. Tablets are also superior to paper-based news and entertainment delivery because users can tailor content to their needs, even choosing video and audio over text.
Tablets, however, are still expensive for many consumers, especially since connectivity charges are added to the initial cost of the device. Battery charging is inconvenient, and consumers are out of luck if they drop the iPad on the floor.
As for e-readers, such as Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook, David Allen counts their advantages in Pulp and Paper International magazine:
However, prices are also high for some users. In addition, single-tasking e-readers are limited to black and white text, with no video or music, and will face stiff competition from tablets, which access the Internet, send e-mails, update spreadsheets and more.
Both Allen and the Pira report anticipate the overall effect on the market will take time to evolve. The shift from print to digital will not take place in months or years, they say, but over decades.
As big stories break online, newspapers are fighting back by focusing on local news, Allen explains. They have the number of reporters to cover the human interest stories that national and international media don't. Hybrid publications with print and electronic components are gradually becoming commonplace.
And don't toll print's death knell just yet. If TV can create a market for magazines from Oprah, Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray, could there be a Google or Facebook magazine in our future?
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