Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"iTunes News" and 'readers'

Finally read David Carr's article this morning and while it wasn't saying anything new, it was a nice take on the problem. Interestingly, he referred to the Cook's Illustrated operation. I spent some time earlier this month analysing their operation myself.
There is a pay for content model out there. This constant discrediting of the notion is not really helping anyone. Frankly, I would happily pay, say $30 a year, for access to my favoured news source online. It may not be a number in the hundreds of dollars, but it is also worth considering that the online audience pool is substantially larger than the pool available to a regional or even national newspaper.
How those kinds of sums break down for a smaller operation are a part of the 'new' media equations.
As I read his piece though, another interesting parallel cropped up. I would really like a 'reader', a computer-like screen that I can use to read away from the computer; say, lying down, sitting, at the gym, in transit, etc.
There are products available. Amazon's Kindle is getting a lot of good reviews, so I had looked into it. Amazon has tried to make it too proprietary in my view. There is little interaction between the Kindle and a computer and if you want to send something in between the two, say a PDF or word file, you actually have to pay Amazon for the privilege. Even worse, the operation is carried out via email. This can and should be done far more easily, simply by syncing the reader and the PC.
Besides, I like being able to actually use bits and pieces from articles or books I have read. Or I might want to transfer notes I have made after reading something to my computer. Or check important email, if I need to. Not being able to do these things with the Kindle is the reason I won't be getting one for my own personal use.
So, I looked into Sony's new reader. The latest version is almost there, but there are still a few limitations. And again yesterday, I saw an article out the Consumer Electronic Show now underway in the US about another new Sony product, which may well have potential. The price is too high, I suspect. And the keyboard is obviously an issue (they are getting around the key spacing issue (as in the keys are packed too closely together to be able to type comfortably) by deliberately targeting a certain type of woman [really], the kind of woman who maintains long fingernails (all the better for pecking with....). But, it is a very nice looking machine. One I am keen to test drive.
That inspired another quick internet search, which led to another interesting Sony release (made last year), which is along similar lines. A smaller pocket type book sized reader / computer. This is not quite there either. The specs are still a bit too minimal.
Mini computers are a possible alternative. I think they are a short term option in the marketplace, despite their current growing popularity. Technological developments are likely to outpace them sooner rather than later. Sure, their small size is addressing a problem, I just don't think they are a solution that is likely to stick.
They will be seen as too clunky and too heavy in the very near future, I predict.
I guess we are still really waiting for rollable e-paper/keyboards that can be rolled or folded when not in use. A few months ago, I did see an article on some research in Japan that suggested scientists were definitely getting closer to this possibility. Although, it is still some years away.
In the meantime, though, where does this all lead in terms of creating a new paying model for news delivery, a la "iTunes News".
A lot of places, to put it briefly.
I have some ideas I am mulling over, but I may need to copyright them!

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