Newspaper and magazine publishers are scrambling to take advantage of the surge of interest in electronic readers, in a free-for-all made all the more confusing by the sheer number of devices and publishers involved.
In the latest match-up, Sony announced that its new electronic reader will allow users to buy digital subscriptions to The Wall Street Journal, as well as its tabloid cousin, the New York Post. Both papers are owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
The WSJ subscriptions will cost $14.99 per month via Sony, while a subscription to MarketWatch and selected WSJ columns will go for $10.99 per month, and the NYP subscription will go for $9.99 per month.
Sony said it has exclusive distribution rights for the Post's digital edition, set to debut next month. However, digital subscriptions for the WSJ are available on a wide range of devices, including Amazon's Kindle as well as mobile versions for smartphones.
There has been a general move by print publishers to make digital editions available for e-readers. Last week, Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith and Time Inc. unveiled an independent joint venture to create a shared publishing solution for digital versions of their content. This should allow them to create and deliver digital editions of magazines, newspapers and other text-focused products to mobile devices, including e-readers.
Conde Nast has also begun developing e-reader software based on Adobe AIR for its big titles, while Hearst is touting Skiff, a new device and software platform for viewing digital content on various portable devices.
Newspaper publisher McClatchy has also unveiled plans to introduce Kindle-compatible editions of five newspapers: The Sacramento Bee, Charlotte Observer, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Anchorage Daily News, and Raleigh's News & Observer.
Research outfits are also scrambling to get a handle on the demographics of the new device owners. In November, Mediamark Research and Intelligence released the results of a study that found people who own electronic book readers are better educated and more affluent than the average American adult.
Overall, 2.1 million American adults own an electronic book reader, according to MRI's estimate, with a gender distribution that somewhat favors men (56.3%) over women (43.7%). Adults ages 35-54 are the most likely age cohort to own an e-reader, with a 20% greater probability than the general population.
MRI found that e-reader owners are 11% more likely to own their own home, 87% more likely to have an annual household income over $100,000, and 111% more likely to have a bachelor's or post-graduate degree. In keeping with their tech-savvy reputation, they are more likely to be heavy Internet users.