The Migration to Mobile E-Reading

What would it take for you to buy news on the iPad or Kindle?

The cover story of our current issue argues that mobile reading devices like the iPad, Amazon Kindle, and Sony Reader offer publishers a “second chance” to monetize digital content in a way that escaped them during the advent of Web 1.0. Consumers have already demonstrated a willingness to pay for subscriptions on such devices, if not yet in large numbers.

In late April, the Audit Bureau of Circulations announced that newspaper circulation had fallen nearly 9 percent compared to a year earlier, but also that subscriptions to the top 25 newspaper e-editions—which includes digital replicas, online-only subscriptions, and products like Times Reader, in addition to e-reader subscriptions—were up 40 percent. Bureau spokesman Neal Lulofs cautioned that the growth was not attributable to the emergence e-readers, however. “Newspapers, in general, are not yet selling a large number of subscriptions to their content via these devices, from what we see,” he said.

Nonetheless, beginning in March 2011, the bureau will change the form (pdf) that newspapers use to report electronic-edition circulation, allowing them to breakdown subscriptions via the Web, e-readers, and other mobile devices. So, we’re curious what would take to get you to start buying your news on mobile devices like the iPad and Kindle? The death of your print paper? Better or cheaper devices? An easier or different way to subscribe to e-editions?

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.