It is thinner than a CD case and is made of a flexible sheet of stainless steel foil that won’t shatter if you drop it. Yet the Skiff Reader, a touchscreen device unveiled last week, could be the salvation of newspapers and magazines challenged by the slow death of print across the West.
Boasting a 30cm screen, the Reader’s main job is to demonstrate how well highly customised text-based content can run on digital tablets that connect to the web via Wi-Fi and 3G networks.
Developed by an offshoot of Hearst Corporation, it is being eyed by most of the world’s biggest newspaper groups, who hope tablet devices — some 50 to 60 of which could hit the market this year — will help with their transition into the digital world.
Tablet-based content should represent a big improvement on the boring pdf-style digital editions that most publishers of newspapers and magazines produce.
Backed by an estimated $35m, Skiff has developed software to help publishers repurpose print content “at high volume” for tablet devices.
Gil Fuchsberg, the former journalist who has overseen Skiff from its origins argues the time is right for magazines and newspapers to follow books, which are available on electronic readers such as Kindle.
Fuchsberg says that he looks forward to travelling on the subway train surrounded by commuters reading touchscreen tablets.
“Billions of literate adults”, Fuchsberg believes, will eventually exchange print for digital screens.