A week after launching, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal remain the bestsellers for Amazon.com's e-reader, Kindle, but Time magazine has dramatically fallen to 12th place and continues to fall. Why? The display technology, eInk, is better than traditional displays at approximating the experience of text on a page, but the high-contrast, monochromatic screen is lousy at displaying images. The Kindle version of Time omits the images because of this, and Time magazine's appeal is as much in pictures as in words.
As the sole reviewer puts it:
This is a rather embarrassing electronic version of Time Magazine. There are NO pictures, no charts, no illustrations. Instead whenever you run into an article that has these in any decent amount, they've inserted an entry telling you to go get a PDF or print version. The salvation here is that their MOBILE web site at least has some images (even if impossibly small) and seems better formatted and organized. It looks and feels like some cheap RSS reader collected this rather than being an electronic version of the magazine. To fix it they should include all major article pictures, along with a full-screen copy of the cover. Time without pictures, is like the Braille-edition of Playboy. No wonder it is just $1.49 a month.
Time could try to improve the electronic version by including more images, but they probably believe, rightfully so, that displaying photos poorly would be worse than not including them at all.
Kindle supporters may be willing to overlook this flaw, but Amazon cannot afford to. Amazon is depending on subscription revenues derived mostly from newspapers, magazines, and blogs to subsidize its free Internet connectivity. If image-rich content, including most magazines, fail to catch on, it could be a serious blow to Amazon's plans to make Kindle profitable.
Of course, all Kindle subscription content comes with a free 14-day trial, so we may soon see the text-heavy Times falling next week as well, since the free Web version is also accessible from the device. (The Journal, whose website still charges for now, may hold out longer.) Can books, a one-time purchase, keep Kindle lit? Jeff Bezos must hope so. The modern day Charles Dickens has yet to make an appearance.