So far, the Tablet (which is still in development and doesn't have a name so we're using Tablet) looks like a big iPhone with a 10.7-inch touchscreen.
While some worry that SI's parent company, Time Inc. is jumping the gun on technology that has yet to be test-driven in an attempt to be technologically relevant, perhaps the Tablet technology is no worse than any other electronic reader out there.
But the future of e-readers themselves is hazy. Some critics say that the market is already saturated, technology is radically changing and that people may just read books on their iPhones.
And are you really getting a digital magazine? Essentially, readers will be downloading a big, glossy PDF of the magazine with little interactivity. Media Decoder at the New York Times writes:
Terry McDonell, editor of the Sports Illustrated Group, said in an interview at his office that the adherence to the print design was intentional.
"There's something really great about magazines, about browsing," he said. "Let's heighten that."
While one can digitally thumb through the magazine, there won't be any zoom features for the text or photos. If that's the case, why wouldn't readers just buy the real magazine instead of a virtual one?
But Time Inc. is betting on technology as the savior of the publishing industry. While that's still an unknown, perhaps one of the reasons it's pursuing digital technology is that advertisers are going wild for e-reader consumers.
Although numbering only about 2 million, they tend to make over $100,000 a year, own their own homes and are more educated than the general public. That's a luxury audience and means big advertising bucks for publishers. (However, If I were to make a guess, I would say that most of the owners are techies -- they are heavy Internet users -- who are into the latest gadget and probably don't have an affinity for Sports Illustrated or jocks of any kind.)
There's some truth to the argument that books and magazines are compact and easy by themselves, why make them more complicated? What's next, a digital Mona Lisa to hang on your wall? (Although arguments for recycling and wasting paper prevail, electronic waste is far more dangerous and problematic.) Perhaps a few years from now, the e-reader will be seen simply as a novelty item.