Monday, April 24, 2006

Newspapers making another stupid attempt to use technology to wall themselves off from the internet

The trouble with the famous example of the Betamax, Sony’s futile attempt to build a levee against a wave of technological change with its own proprietary standard, is that everyone remembers it but nobody learns from it. Today’s NYT has a story about a new round of upcoming “e-paper” trials by newspapers around the world (including the Times), using readers with “digital ink” on a flexible plastic substrate that would cost about $400. But they could only download prepackaged media, including the newspaper.
The difference this time, developers and supporters say, is that the screens on the new hardware are made to reflect rather than transmit light, making them more like paper. The devices weigh about 13 ounces (light enough to be held in one hand while reading) and can be updated in Wi-Fi hot spots or through Internet connections (although they cannot be used to surf the Web yet). Their touch screens are also capable of doubling as notebooks to jot down information or to download books. Pages are turned with the touch of a button.
Big deal. Why would anyone want an e-newspaper that doesn’t connect to the internet or allow the reader follow hyperlinks? Isn’t that the point of reading an electronic newspaper?

The newspapers, of course, are trying to save trees, cut print production costs and lock in readers (perhaps by giving them free readers in exchange for long-term contracts). But who wants to be part of a captive audience limited to top-down, one-way communication. Isn’t that what TV is all about?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Plus, how would I get my coupons for 25 cents of ketchup.