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Some users of the Kindle, an e-reader that requires no Internet connection, are using it to get their newspapers. 

Can Kindle broaden newspaper readership?

by Ashley Bates
Jan 14, 2009

As consumers are tightly guarding their pocket books, the already besieged newspaper industry is bracing for further drops in readership.

Yet consumer frugality has not prevailed in the case of Amazon’s Kindle, a $359, portable e-reader that has sold out due to overwhelming demand. This 10-ounce device may offer a glimmer of hope for a newspaper industry struggling to recoil from losses of readership and advertising revenue to online sources.

The Kindle, introduced by Inc. in November of 2007, allows users to access books, newspapers, magazines and blogs through the same technology used in cell phones. Customers do not need an Internet connection, and a black-and-white electronic ink display screen simulates the experience of reading on actual paper.

While many initially bought the Kindle in order to read e-books, some have begun subscribing to newspapers as well. The paper is “delivered” every morning—only it arrives electronically instead of on the doorstep.

On Friday USA Today announced that it's now available on Kindle, following the lead of many other papers, including the Chicago Tribune, New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

"The response so far has been tremendous and we look forward to reaching our readers on yet another platform," Jeff Webber, senior vice president and publisher of, said in a press release.

Chicagoan McKenna Wigfield, 24, got her Kindle as a Christmas gift and raved about its “user-friendliness” and “clarity of display.” She had not yet decided whether to buy a $13.99 per month Kindle subscription to the New York Times, which she regularly reads online.

“I’m not sure how much time I would spend reading [the New York Times] on Kindle,” she said. “I want to be sure that it’s worth it to get a paper every day. I’m still considering.”

While Amazon declined to reveal sales data on Kindle newspaper subscriptions, the company prominently highlights Kindle’s newspaper selection on the home page of its Web site.

Industry analysts have been surprised by the willingness of tech-savvy consumers to purchase newspaper subscriptions through Kindle instead of relying solely on Internet news.

Michael Qaissaunee, an associate professor of engineering technology at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey, closely follows wireless innovations. He owns a Kindle, but uses it mainly to read books, not newspapers. He cautioned that, while the device holds much promise, it is not yet well-known to the general public.

“Unlike the iPhone, [The Kindle] is not really a mainstream device yet,” he said. “But if they start to get it mainstream and newspapers don’t have to print anymore, then the profit margins should be much better for them.”

Jay Deckard, a 34-year-old Chicago businessman, is among many Chicagoans who have never heard of the Kindle. He subscribes to the paper editions of the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s and was not interested in purchasing a Kindle.

“I like the actual physical paper,” he said. “The only way I could see myself buying a Kindle is if I was traveling a lot more. If I had to leave early for the airport, it would be nice to be able to download it anywhere and read it.”