The New York Times speculated yesterday that Amazon may launch a new, larger Kindle, better for displaying newspapers and magazines, as early as this week.
This may be an effort to forestall the development of rival devices; today’s Wall Street Journal reports that several newspaper companies, dissatisfied with the Kindle, are backing other e-readers, such as the one from Plastic Logic.
The new Kindle, if it does emerge, isn’t likely to get around the major sticking-point for newspaper companies; that Amazon acts as the middleman to subscribers, controlling pricing.
In any case, it doesn’t look like electronic distribution will rescue the newspaper business immediately. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the numbers of electronic subscribers are miniscule:
The Wall Street Journal — the second-most-popular newspaper for the Kindle after the New York Times — has more than 15,000 [electronic] subscribers, according to a spokeswoman for the paper, compared to its paid circulation of more than two million daily. Fortune magazine has roughly 5,000 subscribers, according a person familiar with the matter, while the magazine has an average print circulation of nearly 866,000.