Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bringing New York Times to the 21st Century

Silicon Alley Insider did a back of the envelope analysis on New York Times printing costs based on the company's 3Q08 results and came to the conclusion that they were twice as much as giving the paper's 830,000 subscribers a Kindle.

The article reminded me of a story in the New York Times about an eReader developed by Plastic Logic, which had the perfect dimensions for (8.5 x 11) for delivering newspapers. The company was supposed to announce partnerships at the CES conference, but nothing came of it. There's no news on Plastic Logic's website about partnerships with newspapers and it seems they are moving away from positioning the gadget as a newspaper reader to a business document reader.

That's too bad, given that the newspaper industry is losing ad revenues and readers are going online where the same content is free. Some may wonder who would want an eReader for periodicals when there's available access to the news on the computer, but there's a trade-off between accessibility and mobility. Sure laptops have shrunken over the years and netbooks are relatively light, but the clamshell design still makes them a pretty awkward replacement for holding and perusing a newspaper or magazine.

The Plastic Logic eReader is ideal for portability and ease-of-use and think of the printing costs saved and reduced carbon footprint (no more truck delivery, less trees cut) if the New York Times could get its users to convert to the gadget from newsprint. If the paper can offer an eReader with more reading area than the Kindle and integrate wireless technology, there's a real possibility it can maintain and grow its subscriber base by offering current news in a format that's easier to read than on the computer.

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