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timesreaderHow newspapers will make money in the 21st century is a legitimate question. As such, the publishing world was quite excited with the prospects for new technology saving an old industry after Apple’s iPad announcment earlier this year, which included the unveiling of a New York Times app with a subscription model.

The app, which formats content in a manner similar to a newspaper, allows readers to check out the entire day’s paper, watch videos relevant to the day’s news, browse the news by pictures and even do that day’s crossword.

I have a $200 netbook instead of a $500 iPad, and seeing as my $200 netbook can run multiple apps at a time and even use flash, I’m not planning on picking up an iPad anytime soon. So what does the New York Times offer me? A program that formats content in a manner similar to a newspaper and allows readers to check out the entire day’s paper, watch videos relevant to the day’s news and even do that day’s crossword. That’s right.

timesreader-article

Predating the hyped iPad application, Times Reader 2.0 is a desktop reader for the New York Times. Because it’s built using Adobe Air, it can run on Linux, Mac and Windows computers. Because it’s from the New York Times, it offers a great overview of the day’s news, particularly if you’re from the United States of America.

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Best of all, because the New York Times wants people to get used to using Times Desktop Reader, they offer the front page, the weekday business page (which features a lot of tech news) and even the famous New York Times Magazine for free.

Reading, but better

desktop reader

For me, reading a newspaper with Times Desktop Reader is vastly superior to reading a newspaper on a website. The fonts used in the application are easy on the eyes. Articles are formatted in columns, making them easy to read. Advertising is delegated to a single banner beneath articles””and even then it’s only every other page that features them. Essentially, this program brings everything I love aesthetically about newspapers to my computer.

But it’s not just about looks; navigation is easier too. If I’m reading an article, scrolling down a page’s worth of content is as easy as pressing the down button. Skipping the next article means pressing right, and going back to the previous article is done by pressing left. It’s all very intuitive, but you’ll need to try it out.

Offline reading

When you start Times Reader, it automatically downloads 7 days worth of New York Times to your computer. Once it’s done, you can read these entire issues online or off””useful if you take your laptop along for a long flight or a train commute.

If you’re running Times Reader on a netbook with a small hard drive, or are just generally concerned about not using up too much hard drive space, you can reduce the number of cached issues in the Settings Panel.

Free offerings

As mentioned above, the New York Times does not offer the entire paper for free through this program. It does offer quite a bit for example, the front page; Business Day; and on Sundays, the entire New York Times Magazine.

Additional content you can get for free for the desktop reader includes all the Most Emailed articles, a News in Video section, a News in Pictures section, the eight most recent articles posted online and access to one archived crossword each day (access to the latest requires a subscription).

nytimes-crossword

The crossword feature is fairly ingenious, actually, and even features a hint function. The New York Times Crossword is famous for its difficulty, so if you’re a crossword enthusiast, Times Reader might be worth checking out just for that.

But my main point here is to say that the entire newspaper isn’t free. My busy days don’t give me time to read much more than the front page, so the free version works perfectly for me.

Download

Want to check out Times Reader? Go ahead and download it here. You’ll need Adobe Air to run the program, but don’t worry””the link will install Air for you automatically on Linux, Mac or Windows.

Like the concept, but wish you could columnize your favorite blog or website in a similar fashion? Check out Jeffry’s recent article on Readefine Readefine - Newspaper-ize Web Content With Newspaper Formatting Readefine - Newspaper-ize Web Content With Newspaper Formatting Read More .

Conclusion

If newspapers need to be read on a screen instead of paper, I think the Times Reader represents a good model for doing so. Even if you’re not interesed in the New York Times””either because you’re not from the United States or because you perceive that publication as biased””this program is worth checking out as a proof of concept. I feel that newspapers offering a program this good with which to read their content have a better chance of convincing readers to pay for content than those who would just add a password to their website.

What about you? Do you think Times Desktop Reader is a good model for reading a newspaper on your computer, or do you prefer an old-fashioned website? Do you know of any other newspapers offering similar programs? Or do you, as a member of the blogging generation, not remember what newspapers are? Let us know in the comment below!

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