Portable e-readers such as the Kindle are unlikely to win readers back to the newspaper habit unless they include features such as color, photographs and touch screens, according to research conducted at UGA.
Young adults in particular compared the Kindle DX used in the study unfavorably to smart phones.
Professors of advertising Dean Krugman and Tom Reichert, and Barry Hollander, an associate professor of journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, conducted the research project over a six-month period in 2009.
Athens-area residents were provided Kindles to read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In-depth interviews and focus groups followed to learn their likes and dislikes of the e-reader.
The Atlanta daily newspaper dropped Athens from its circulation area in 2009, prompting the researchers to wonder whether e-readers such as the Kindle, sold through Amazon, might be a viable substitute for the traditional newspaper.
“We are in the first phase of the project which compares e-readers, such as the Kindle, to traditional newspapers and online delivery systems,” said Krugman. “Our focus is on the way people consume media in a rapidly changing environment.”
While adults of all ages were impressed by the readability of the Kindle screen, describing it as “easy on the eyes,” few considered it a primary way to read news.
For younger adults, the Kindle fell short when compared to their smart phones. Older adults were overall more receptive to the concept of an e-reader. However, the Kindle failed to include part of the newspaper they enjoyed, such as comics and crosswords.
Cost was a factor regardless of age. Nearly all respondents balked at the Kindle DX’s $489 price tag.
A number of competing e-reader or “tablet” systems are expected on the market soon, including the Apple iPad which debuted Jan. 27.