TimesReader 2.0: Is it time to stop killing trees?


There are two interesting things about the new New York Times Reader application. First, the company has abandoned SilverLight for Adobe Air, thereby ensuring cross-platform compatibility without that nasty Microsoft aftertaste. Second, the application is great.

Full disclosure: I’m a regular contributor to the NYT but I’m not employed by them full-time and act as a freelancer. But I still read the paper every day.

Now, for the good stuff. I used the earlier app briefly and put it away. I find that this new version is much cleaner than the earlier iteration. The front page is extremely readable and sections are clearly laid out. The application stores up to seven days of content and includes the crosswords as well as much of the standard print layout. You can’t do a full, site-wide search through the app simply because that data isn’t there. However, you can read the paper on a laptop.

There is a bit of lag in the Air app under OS X and I’m not sure if it’s buffering or there are other issues with the UI.

But is this the proverbial straw that broke the even-toed ungulates’ back? I’ve been toying with the idea of canceling my paper subscription for years now but there is something in me that thinks I won’t get the news if I don’t have it arrayed on the surface made of fibrous material. I like moving from page to page, scanning the interesting articles, and ignoring the rest. I can get that job done over breakfast.

However, when I was traveling my NYT couldn’t come with me. I would suspend delivery and never read a word of the paper. Now, with this app, the NYT is not longer a physical thing. But it’s not as simple, I think, as digitizing the times. I originally thought the Kindle would be the answer to my prayers but again, I haven’t found a good analog for the newsprint experience. This – and potentially the DX – might finally relegate the print edition to the obsolete folder in my head.

A few strange behaviors I noticed included the occasional disappearance of the front page images as well as a problem with in-book images, like this image-less obituary. Articles from a few days ago had their images intact.

This is, however, the way to go. The service costs $14.95 a month. Paper service costs about $40 a month in Brooklyn, a considerable cost savings. I suspect using this service will be a lateral move for me – just as it will be for many print hounds. After using the Reader and reading the paper for a while, the paper version will become little more than a vestigial tail. While part of me is sad – I’ll miss the paper – the rest of me knows this is the only way to keep this crazy thing we call journalism alive.