Jackie Leo, editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest, says “some friends at Sony” mentioned the idea while Sony was developing its portable electronic Reader. Now, Reader’s Digest is the first magazine to provide content for CONNECT, Sony’s e-book store, with two short story collections culled from its magazine content.
The collections offer readers what Reader’s Digest can’t in the undersized magazine, says Leo. “We’re not always able to print an entire story,” she says, “even though the reporting has been done. Writers we hire to do these pieces might be able to offer back story as well as secondary and tertiary plots that would never fit into the magazine.”
One feature that particularly appeals to Leo is the ability for readers to print on-demand. She foresees long-term possibilities with this technology because readers who prefer e-paper can buy and use the portable device, while those who prefer something more tangible can download and print.
When asked about revenue expectations, Leo says she has none at all. “Anything we get is found money,” she says. “It’s more of a learning experience at this point.” The collections are priced at $6.36 each or $9.56 as a bundle.
The biggest challenge has been with coordinating graphic elements, according to Leo. “Communication and timing on both ends has been tough,” she says. “The technology used by the Sony reader is not unknown to us with PDFs, but our product is a magazine and not a book. There’s more graphical material on our end. We had to make some adjustments to limit our graphics, but now we have a template for each of our stories and it seems to be working well.”
Going forward, Leo hopes to create longer lists of content with Sony CONNECT, including original material not found in the magazine. “I have been following e-ink and e-paper for a while,” she says, “and believe it could be a terrific interim if not long-term technology for print. It’s easy to use, customizable and even in its first iteration, the reader can store millions of words and users can travel with the device.”
So far, Reader’s Digest has promoted their e-Book once, in their September issue, but Leo says more is to come. “Because of our brand, we know that people will find us. We haven’t promoted as much as we will in the future.”
Meanwhile, Sony has revealed no specific plans to involve other titles. "Magazines such as Reader’s Digest offer great alternatives for our customers. We are always looking at new ways to enhance our service . . . but at this point we have made no further announcements," a Sony spokesperson says.