On May 11, The New York Times released the new version of its Times Reader, its downloadable software application that makes reading an digital version of The Times more like reading the printed newspaper. Times Reader is an application, not a page on a Web site, so users downloads the software onto their computer and the “paper” is delivered directly to their desktops whenever they are connected to the Internet. Once the day’s paper is downloaded, subscribers can take their laptop on the go and don’t have to be connected to click through the pdf-style version of The Times with minimal ads and a more immersive layout. The “paper” will be automatically updated every five minutes with breaking news, whenever the computer is connected to the Internet.
“We’ve built TimesReader 2.0 in response to the feedback we’ve received from you, our community of subscribers,” wrote Rob Larson, NYTimes.com’s vice president of digital production, in a May 8 entry on The Times‘ “First Look” blog, which reviewed a “sneak peak” of the new software. “A constant theme in that feedback has been to design the reading experience to capture the best aspects of print. We listened and now it is.”
The interface is elegant, minimal and easy to navigate. Readers who actually still read the paper will feel more comfortable with the Times Reader than the Web site. It looks a lot like what the paper will look like on the new Kindle DX, which publisher Arthur Sulzberger presented with Amazon chief executive and chairman Jeff Bezos last week.
Along with the Kindle subscription (currently $13.99 per month), the Times Reader is just one of The Times‘ many experiments with revenue avenues, and is placing a hefty $3.45 per week price tag on the full version of the application, the same cost as a Weekender paper subscription for the first 12 weeks. That’s a $14.95 monthly fee.
In his blog post, Mr. Larson explained that the first version of Times Reader was organized more like NYTimes.com than the printed paper. “On the Web, where our readers may not visit every section, we play the same story across many sections,” he wrote. “For example, a story about the sale of a sports team- might appear in both our Business section and our Sports section. In print, of course it will appear only once.”
He continued: “The news sections are presented with the same story selection and editorial judgment as in the printed paper. Sections appear on their day of publication, with Science Times on Tuesdays, Dining on Wednesdays, the Magazine on Sunday, and so on. The layout seeks to preserve the same editorial judgments as those expressed in the printed paper.”
The Times first announced the Times Reader product in April 2006, at the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention in Seattle, billed as a partnered project with Microsoft, and various versions have been released since. The company first released a paid subscription version of Times Reader in March 2007. The first beta version for Mac was rolled out in May 2008.
This new version was built with Adobe and has several new features including video, crossword puzzles, and a “Browse” feature that lets users to zoom out and see surrounding pages, which enables easier scanning and “increases the sense of serendipity and surprise that you so often find in print,” according to Mr. Larson.
The New York Times‘ research and development group had lots of these types of futuristic news reading experiments in the works. Today, on May 12, they debuted the Times Wire, a kind of real-time aggregator of the site’s breaking stories organized chronologically on NYTimes.com. But beyond websites, this video from the Nieman Journalism Lab highlights what design integration editor Nick Bilton has in store. He reviewed the department’s experiments with viewing the news on different screens, including a possible Kindle killer.
From the video transcript:
Another big thing that we always explore are the netbooks. These put a whole different generation of people online, and we’ve been looking at how you tell stories on these machines. You know, some of them have foldable screens, some of the are touchscreen, they’re all different sizes, and we really have to understand how our content, the stories are told on there.
An interesting technology that is going to affect the e-book reader industry in the next year or so is the screen from the One Laptop Per Child. Mary Lou Jepsen came from One Laptop Per Child. She invented the screen, which is actually called Pixel Qi — Pixel Q-I. It’s based off the E-Ink technology and LCD, and it’s mashed together, and it creates a color version of E-Ink that you can actually switch between this LCD with full movement to E-Ink in low-light situations and low power and things like that. So she’s going to be shipping those devices, the screens in November or so which means that we’ll probably start seeing them in the market place in the next year or year and a half, which should be really interesting.
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