Wednesday, 20 June 2012

the move to digital newspapers

I had a slightly flippant conversation with J yesterday about the implications of newspapers moving to a digital only format.

To put this in context we are both tablet users, and ebook readers and serious users of tech.  We're both used to using computing devices on the kitchen bench, outside, in bed etc.

The first objection is that if the paper is digital you can't drop yoghurt on it at breakfast in the morning. This is a variation of the old ebook argument that you can't really read an ebook in the bath. This never had much weight for us as we never read paper books in the bath, much preferring Classic FM or Radio National.

Unlike the ebook and bath argument this does have legs as breakfast usually involves jam, yoghurt, crumbs and other thing that are bad for computers. On the other hand we've never had that many disasters with the physical paper. The obvious answer would be to buy a cheap second user device and leave it in the kitchen. This of course would lead to the 'who forgot to charge the xxx scenario?'

Sharing subscriptions, newspaper subscriptions are per household, not per user, meaning we either read the digital paper on a shared device or need to be able to access it from a small number of devices.

Splogging. At the weekends we pull the paper apart, read random bits in random order leaving bits scattered around the house. While you can splog with digital - random web surfing is a good example - you need to accept its non linearity - any digital version of the weekend papers would need to take this into account. (The Australian does a weekday digital/weekend print subscription package which is most probably an attempt to deal with weekend sploggers).

So digital papers are fine for linear reading, just as are ebooks. The trouble is a the locations in which they will be read and the (potential) loss of happenstance and randomness.

If I regularly rode the bus to work I'd probably have a different view and read the paper on the bus, just as I might listen to podcasts. This wouldn't replicate the subscription sharing problemas the same would apply if I took the print paper to work.

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