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Getting More Magazines on the Kindle

Picture 1 The Kindle is now more than 18 months old and there are still only 24 magazines available for it.  Why so few?  I've heard several reasons why and the most likely ones are (a) the magazine publishers don't like the financial terms offered by Amazon and (b) they also don't want to give up control of their content (and direct customer access) to Amazon.  I've got an idea that solves both these problems and would make Kindle owners everywhere much, much happier.

The company I work for, O'Reilly Media, Inc., sells Kindle editions on Amazon's website.  We don't rely on Amazon as our only means of access to Kindle owners though.  We also sell e-book bundles on our site and those bundles feature all the popular formats including .mobi for the Kindle.  Magazine publishers (and newspapers too, for that matter) should take the same approach and sell Kindle content right from their own websites.

Granted, we're talking about a single block of content with a book vs. an ongoing subscription with a magazine or newspaper...and that's where things get interesting...

Amazon has a document conversion service for all Kindle owners.  I can e-mail a PDF to my Kindle address ([email protected]) and Amazon will convert that PDF and wirelessly send it to my Kindle.  The service used to be free but now it costs 15 cents per meg for the upload.  Each of the magazine issues currently on my Kindle (The New Yorker and Technology Review) are less than one meg, btw.

Here's how the model would work: Each magazine website would simply add another option to their new subscriber page.  This option would be for Kindle delivery.  Choose it, give the magazine publisher your address, set your Kindle e-mail account to accept incoming messages from that magazine's server and you're done.  The result is a direct relationship (again) between magazine publisher and customer; it's just that this particular customer happens to receive issues via their Kindle.

That's how the front-end works, but how about the back-end?  The magazine publisher could prep the issue in PDF format, send it to the customer's address and let Amazon do the conversion and upload work for them.  Sure, Amazon gets 15 cents/meg, but each magazine publisher would simply have to figure out how much that translates to per issue and price the subscription accordingly.  Btw, if you want to avoid the Amazon charges, have the subscription sent to your address and simply move the content from in-box to Kindle via USB cable.  Another option is to take that last option a step further, automate it a bit, and go back to wireless delivery, like KindleFeeder now offers.

As a magazine publisher you'd keep 100% of the subscription price.  You'd also do away with printing and postage fees, so please keep that in mind when setting the subscription price!  Finally, you could determine how much advertising you want to keep in the digital edition.  Maybe you'd want to offer two plans: A higher-priced subscription with no ads and a lower-priced one with all the regular ads.  As an added bonus, those ads could now have live links to the advertiser sites; good luck pulling that off in the print edition.

Speaking for Kindle owners everywhere, I hope magazine publishers will follow O'Reilly's lead and start offering a direct-to-Kindle-customer subscription plan.  What do you have to lose?!

P.S. -- Why am I so comfortable publishing my Kindle e-mail address here?  Because every spammer in the world can send messages to it and they won't get through.  I give Amazon a list of acceptable incoming e-mail addresses and none of them are from spammers.


Don Linn

My guess is the reason most magazines aren't on Kindle is that complex design and layout with lots of sidebars, callouts and photos display poorly on current Kindles. In addition, the lack of color significantly detracts from the reader's experience.

I like your model, but I wouldn't pay for our magazines on the Kindle.

Joe Wikert

Hi Don. You're right that it's not a solution for all magazines but I can think of quite a few I'd love to get this way. And don't forget about newspapers. I love reading The New York Times on my Kindle every day and I'll bet I'm not alone.

Justin Long

The primary reason this would be difficult (with emailing to the @kindle address) is that only pre-approved email addresses (e.g. mine) can email to my @kindle address. And I'd guess there are provisions in place to make sure no one else is emailing to me. So they'd have to alter the API?

Joe Wikert

Hi Justin. It's easier than you think. You can add approved email addresses to your list at any time. So if you sign up for a magazine subscription under this model I'm proposing you'd just go into your approved email list and add the magazine's incoming email address. This is exactly the same series of steps I went through when I enabled my KindleFeeder account. It was extremely simple.


The other reason why there aren't more magazines and newspapers?

Even when the publisher figures out a contact at amazon, that person doesn't return calls and emails.

Rick - FeedUs

We're actually doing this for some customers because of their frustration with Amazon.

The one thing we've noticed is that most (99%) kindle owners don't realize that this is an option so the process is confusing.

But it's a great option and EVERY newspaper should do it asap.

We are worried that Amazon will realize that we're cutting them out and then block us. Which is a real possibility.

Francis Hamit


With many magazines, the ads are a value-added item. This is especially true of computer and other tech magazines and bridal magazines. It makes no sense to charge less for those without ads sice most people buy them for the ads, not the articles.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

Intriguing, but I agree with Don that this isn't an option for design and color-intensive magazines. I suspect it won't be a significant revenue stream for most niche magazines, either, considering the Kindle's relatively small user base.

I am a publisher of b-to-b magazines and am having difficulty contacting anyone at Amazon about making our magazine available through Kindle. Does anyone have contact information?

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