Times Reader becomes timely


In our increasingly digital world, printed newspapers are sometimes thought of as relics. Who wants to get ink on their fingers [which doesn’t happen with soy-based inks] and have to recycle the paper when they’re finished reading it when you can go to the Web and get the same news.

While the news might be the same on the Web site, the experience isn’t. One of the things I like best about reading an actual newspaper is being able to quickly scan page after page of news. I end up reading stories that I normally wouldn’t read because they caught my eye. This “serendipity factor” is what many Web sites lack, and what the nearly released Times Reader tries to bring to your computer screen.

The Times Reader is an application from the New York Times that is designed to present you with stories and features available both on the Web and in print, but in an a format that is easier to read on a computer screen. The app downloads news based on a schedule, which you can set, and stores it locally so you can read the news even when you don’t have an Internet connection (on the plane, for example). A whole week of news can be read through the Times Reader, though you have to switch between editions if you want to check out news that is a couple of days old.

This is version 2.0 of the Times Reader, and there are many big differences between this release and the previous iteration. Previously, the Mac and PC versions were completely different and didn’t offer the same features. For example, the size of the app’s window on the Mac could only be one of three preset sizes. Now the Times Reader is an Adobe AIR application, which means that you’ll need to install the AIR runtime in order to use it. But it also means that it acts the same on both Mac and PCs. You can also now actually play the crossword puzzle within the app, which is kind of cool.

The biggest new feature—and the one that brings a little of that serendipity factor back to reading news on your computer—is what I like to think of as Exposé for the Times. You click a little Browse icon in the upper left-hand corner of the app, and your view hovers over all the sections of the news. Using your arrow keys you can quickly pan and scan over the day’s news and then zoom in and read an article when something catches your eye.

It ain’t free. But, it ain’t expensive.

Plastic Logic’s e-reader is thin, simple and strong

Why would you want an Amazon Kindle, which is kind of bulky, not too attractive, and of limited scope when you could have a real digital document reader that is thin, easy to use, and very strong? That’s the business case from Plastic Logic, one of the first companies to be on stage at DemoFall.

The company’s plastic reader is designed to store dozens or hundreds of business documents on a very thin digital reader. It can store e-books, magazines, newspapers, PDFs and all kinds of information, the company said.

It’s made with plastic, not glass, meaning that it is designed to be strong and to be able to stand up to being hit with objects or, presumably, even dropped.

It looks pretty cool, and is said to weigh only ounces, “not pounds,” has a battery that lasts days and can be read in bright daylight.

Production starts soon and I guess they’ll come up with a name for the critter that won’t be too dumb.

It certainly has an easier form factor [for me] to deal with compared to existing devices.