Comment and insight on journalism issues from Press Gazette's guest writers

Lori Miles: Kindle Fire and iPad Mini gifts will change people’s reading habits forever

This Christmas will change magazine publishing forever. In a world jaded by the promise of luxury branded goods, where most women have now lowered their expectation of how much happiness and peace of mind a designer handbag can really deliver, there is a gift that will change people’s habits forever.

Our relationship with the written word is undergoing a tsunami of change, thanks to the launch of the Kindle Fire and Apple’s iPad mini.

“Early adopters”, of course, joined the tablet revolution a year or so ago with the launch of the iPad and other tablets, but this Christmas we’ll see a gold rush to the new dinky, little e-readers – and I didn’t get to edit six mass market titles by not reading the market correctly.

I had the same seismic mind shift when, years ago, I went to a Sky launch (with my cynical blinkers on) and was introduced to Sky Plus. OMG, as they say nowadays. The ability to record TV at a push of a button was a game changer in TV, just as much as the seven-inch readers will change the world of magazines and books.

The new e-readers are almost a cradle-to-grave product, easy enough for both pre-schoolers and the elderly to use. And once the masses have their readers, I believe they will lose their appetite for paper and that puts a whole big question mark over the future of the newsstand.

The Kindle Fire heralds the revolution, as it has an affordable entry point – £129 (or £159 for the HD version) compared to £400 or so for an iPad. The iPad Mini comes midway, starting at £269. Google’s Nexus 7 is around £200. They make the perfect Christmas gift for loved ones.

Unlike the large tablets, the Fire, Mini and Nexus are paperback book size (around seven inches), lighter to use (only one hand necessary) and small enough to slip into your bag or pocket. They just feel so great in your hand.

You can download books and music in a nano-second. With the Kindle Fire, magazines can be a bit more tricky. You have to switch off the setting for ‘allow installation of applications from unknown sources’ in the Device Settings before the Zinio download will work. Surely this step will be streamlined soon.

My sister has an original Kindle and yes, it was fine. My daughter has just bought the Fire HD version and now I want one. Her first magazine download was Future Publishing’s Cross Stitcher magazine. She used to traipse up to WH Smith to collect a paper copy, but now she has the digital download. The Fire’s HD retina screen makes the content so easy on the eyes.

On paper, the size of type and the patterns themselves are, of course, fixed, but on the download she can zoom in on the intricacies of the tiny stitches and patterns. So clever. So modern.

The same benefits must be accessible with cookery titles – get up close and personal with the detail means no more fretting over tsp vs tbsp in eight point.

Just as I am writing this column, an email has landed from Zinio offering me specific magazine articles from around the world, just as one could sample a track from a new band. Wow, the magazine world is changing fast.

Smart publishers and editorial teams are getting the message and embracing the change. I was heartened at how the publishing

world is rallying to the challenges before us as I was going through the winners at the BSME Awards this year.

Last year a digital magazine was a novelty, an innovation, now they cover almost every sector, both as Apps and web specific. The Digital Business magazine winner was nursingtimes.net; Digital Customer Titles winner was ikeafamilylive. com; Launch of the Year went to easyliving.co.uk. and Brand App of the Year was the excellent BBC Good Food magazine.

The reason I am sensing this change in publishing is not just the new low cost entry point of the readers themselves, it’s that not many people want to read a magazine sitting up at a desk. Magazines have always been enjoyed as chill out, ‘me time’.

It’s hard to snuggle up in an armchair, on the train, in a plane with a laptop. It’s very easy to cuddle a Kindle. Santa, are you listening?

MEANWHILE, back in the harsh world, this will be Britain’s fifth Christmas in recession. There are 13 million people living in poverty according to the government’s own figures and 300 food banks have been set up in Britain to feed the poor, some in areas as affluent as Hampshire and the Cotswolds. Mumsnet, the heartbeat of contemporary British life, carried stories of middle class parents whose finances are so critical, that they turn off all the lights off when the kids have gone to bed, to save electricity.

All of which set me wondering.... how will the two behemoths of Christmas publishing, Good Housekeeping and Woman and Home, reflect the difficult times of their readers, the ‘squeezed middle’?

In Woman and Home the tone was of support, of counting blessings and finding joy in simple pleasures. Spending Christmas Day in pyjamas rather than a Little Black Dress was mentioned twice. There were many references made to modern, mixed families with divorce, adversity or bereavement factored into the season of joy.

Good Housekeeping, fronted (yet again) by Nigella, felt strangely out of touch.

It had a sort of smugness about it, like a celebrity version of those hideous ‘round robin’ letters – boasting about how simply marvellous their year has been! The Christmas menu contained eight different categories to be shopped, prepared and cooked and GH was so proud of their 200 tried and tested foods that they implored us to buy only the very best (their italics). What an irritating piece of editorial in these stricken times.

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