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Hearst launching Skiff distribution system and Kindle competitor 'by publishers, for publishers,' thinks you'll want it too

Tim Stevens
12.04.09
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Despite all the problems with the Kindle -- poor PDF support, low-contrast screen, Orwellian fears -- it makes for a mighty-fine reading experience for users. From a publisher's perspective it stinks, with Amazon reportedly sucking down 70% of a sale's proceeds. Hearst Corp. (owner of the Houston Chronicle, Oprah Magazine, and many others) wants to set things right. For two years the company has been developing a digital content publishing and distribution service called Skiff, and it's nearly ready for its christening. Publishers will be able to render and ship their content to a number of devices, including the iPhone, but Hearst is also working on its own Kindle competitor that will be the flagship of the Skiff system (we've created an artist's mock-up above). Skiff promises better graphics and better layouts of digital content, which is encouraging, but it'll also allow the easy injection of advertising into paid content -- something we're less happy to see making the transition over from print. As rumored many publishers are said to be signing on soon, with Sprint providing connectivity. That's great, but will you be coming aboard?

Update: We have a few more details courtesy of the official press release, most interesting being news of a partnership with Marvell to develop a system on a chip for e-readers. Given that Spring Design's Alex and the Entourage Edge are both using Marvell chips, we wouldn't be surprised to find they've both been given a berth on this new venture. Also, Skiff is confirmed to be launching sometime in 2010.

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