Friday, September 23, 2005

New York Times: Electronic Delivery

I have heard about NY Times' electronic edition for awhile now, but I never really got around to checking it out until today. You can try it out for free. Register and download today's entire NY Times issue for free.

I. What is the Electronic Edition

Obviously the NY Times is a daily newpaper that anyone serious about current events should be interested in reading. But buying the print edition is cumbersome. If you get it at a newsstand, you actually need to make the trip each day to pick it up. I used to get home delivery in high school, but I hated it because the delivery would never be on time, so I would be at school the entire day without seeing the paper.

Now, in the interest of "going paperless," the Times has basically scanned their entire paper and made it available for a daily download. You can read every page at your desktop at home, on a notebook or at work.

II. Installation and Downloads

In order to use the electronic edition of the Times, you will need to first register at NY Times' site: You choose a username and password (be sure to uncheck the boxes for getting advertisements and special offers). Next, you need to download required software, called NewsStand. Installation was a breeze. It took me five minutes to set everything up.

III. Usage and Features

NewsStand is your portal to the electronic edition of the Times. You simply click the "download" button and an issue of the Times will begin to load as you read it. For those of you worred about not having a constant internet connection, you have the option of downloading the entire issue of the Times at once. This is a much better option in general. An entire issue is generally about 45MB to download, which is remarkably compact for an entire newspaper.

The software is very functional. The pages and the user interface are similar to Adobe Acrobat, which I think is sort of clunky, but all-in-all, very strong. NewsStand allows you to zoom in on any page, making every article razor sharp and easy to read. You can drag your mouse to pull the page in any direction. In addition, you can use the "Pen" tool to mark up articles, though I thik this is kind of useless unless you have a tablet pc with a stylus.

One of the better features is the ability to search for any word. Since the paper is not just an image, but recognized text, you can enter in any search term and find it. For example, I can search for "Rwanda" or "Stem Cells" or "Reverse Engineering" and find anything related to those terms. This is a great leap forward from paging through the print edition.

Other options include the ability to print out articles and send an email to a friend or colleague with a link to download the article. However, I have not figured out how to get this send feature to work.

IV. Price

This is my main sticking point. Each edition is roughly $0.65 a day, though the Times is currently offering 6 weeks of issues for the price of 4. For those of you who purchase the print edition or get home delivery, this might be a lot of savings. Currently, home delivery 7 days a week is roughly $0.82 a day, so this adds up over the year.

Nevertheless, I still think the price is steep for a product that they can reproduce with ease. They have no printing costs or expenses for distribution. All they really have to pay is probably a license fee for the software as well as bandwith for sending out these files. Needless to say, I'm still undecided about buying a long-term subscription.

V. Conclusion

What's the advantage of electronic delivery? No wasted paper, ease of downloads, ability to zoom in, very sharp and clear text resolution as well as various tools for searching and commenting on articles.

Nevertheless, there is something you miss out on from not having the print edition. First, people love to carry the Times because -- regardless of whether they read it or not -- it makes them feel smart. Second, having the print edition is great if you read the paper during a commute, which makes whipping out a laptop to read an online version a problem if you want to save battery life or are uncomfortable with using a notebook in a crowded public place.

Though the media and the bundled software for the Times are relatively well-designed, they don't come without their drawbacks, mainly the steep daily price.

For more information, to sign up for a free trial, or to take a quick tour, see:

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