We really wanted to love the new updated New York Times Reader.
We downloaded the free Adobe Air software, fired it up, and click-flipped through the pages.
Yes, it looks nice -- the pages are certainly less cluttered and easier to read than those on NYTimes.com.
But it leaves us perplexed.
Except for a few free "trial" sections, you only get a teaser headline and first graf of every story; for the whole enchilada, you have to fork over $15/month. Yes -- a paid subscription. True, only about a quarter of the price of home delivery. But why bother when the whole thing is FREE on the Web?
Also, the Reader archives only a week's worth of issues, whereas the Website will search back to 1851!
Moreover, we experimented and found that the Website consistently updates its pages faster and more frequently than the Reader.
On the positive side: Unlike Amazon's touted Kindle portable e-reader, the New York Times Reader features full-color images (not just "16 shades of gray"). But then so does its Website. And, best of all, unlike the Kindle, the Reader plays video. But, again, so does its Website!
All we can figure is that, since the New York Times is partnering with Kindle to lure long-distance paid subscribers, its push to familiarize readers with its own proprietary Reader is perhaps the first step towards conditioning us to pay for content. As we all know by now, it's the proliferation of free content that's undermined the fiscal vitality of newspapers everywhere.
Is the Reader a step in the right direction? Will it work? It's certainly worth taking a look at. But, we hate to admit, we can't see any advantages that would make us pay for a subscription while we can still see all the newspaper's content -- faster and fresher -- on the Web.
(But, yeah, we're glad that it does include video -- a serious shortcoming of the Kindle.)
Here's a peek at the NYTimes.com homepage (top) and the NY Times Reader front page, captured at the exact same time. Click on them to see them full size.
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