Hearst Corp., the publishing conglomerate that owns the magazines Esquire and Cosmopolitan as well as a bevy of newspapers, including the struggling San Francisco Chronicle, is launching an electronic reader that could do for periodicals what Amazon's Kindle is doing for books. Will these e-zine machines mean no more raggedy old magazines lying around the dentist office?

 

With print revenue in decline and online revenue unable to fill the gap, the $300 billion global publishing industry is increasingly looking to devices like e-readers to lower costs while preserving the business model that has sustained newspapers and magazines, according to an article by Michael Copeland posted on CNNMoney.com.

So, the wireless e-reader has "a large-format screen suited to the reading and advertising requirements of newspapers and magazines." And similar to the increasingly popular Kindle and the Sony Reader, which are hand-held gadgets that use electronic "ink" displayed on a crisp, low-power screen, it hopes to deliver an experience that approximates reading on paper — without the cost. According to Copeland, paper, printing and delivery can account for as much as 50% of the cost of publishing a print magazine.

With the new electronic magazines, readers can download content from participating newspapers and magazines wirelessly. And the device is likely to have a flexible core, perhaps even foldable, rather than the brittle glass substrates used in readers on the market today, according to Copeland.

Kenneth Bronfin, who heads up the interactive media group for Hearst, said in an interview that the publishing company has a deep expertise in the technology and says the new device will be a major part of the company's future. CNNMoney asks, what will people pay to pony up for the new gadget? And can you also put books on that thing?