The plug has been pulled on newspapers. They're already circling the drain. But, wait -- Kindle to the rescue?
I haven't subscribed to a daily paper in about 15 years, and I've never paid for a subscription to the Knoxville News Sentinel, so I've kind of startled myself by taking out a Kindle subscription to the Washington Post. For $10 a month, I get the Kindle edition of the paper pushed down to my device every morning (including Sundays); it seems to contain basically everything in the print edition that I would care about. It's missing the classifieds, comics, TV listings, crossword, and other such features, but I wouldn't be interested in those things anyway.
This is a point I think newspaper publishers might be missing: people who subscribe to the Kindle edition probably aren't likely to be subscribers to the dead-tree version. I think they're likelier to be people like me, who have been reading the free edition of the paper on the Web for years now. For that reason, I suspect Kindle subscriptions would represent a new source of revenue for newspapers, rather than a shift from dead-tree subscribers to Kindle subscribers.
I don't know about newspapers, but there are already some indications that the Kindle might breathe new life into the printed word in all sorts of interesting ways that the Web hasn't and won't. When it's the right content at the right time, delivered in the right way, people are willing to pay for it. Since the information-riding-on-the-back-of-advertising model is breaking down and taking with it the whole concept of mass media, this may point to what the future will look like.
I finally broke down and bought a Kindle -- had to, it was just too compelling to pass up. So far, it's been a blast. All the bells and whistles are nice -- the dictionary, the ability to highlight and take notes electronically, being read to -- but they wouldn't mean anything if it weren't fun to read on the thing. And the Kindle tends to "disappear" just like books do as I get lost in whatever I'm reading, which is the real test.