A sizable group of alt weekly types at a Web publishing conference in San Francisco got a pretty interesting look at what the Gray Lady is working on in the technological realm.
Nick Bilton, a former alt weekly person himself, is one of a dozen or so techies working in a New York Times R&D department. He demonstrated the handheld Times Reader and other working products, along with prototypes of interactive newspaper technologies the Times still has in development.
No one’s sure quite when, but someday you’ll be reading your newspaper on a small electronic tablet. Once the technology gets good enough, and cheap enough, the Times will opt out of spending the truly big money it now spends to print words and images on newsprint.
Lots of people find it difficult to read several long newspaper articles sitting at a terminal or even on a laptop at the coffee shop. But, if the news on the tablet looks pretty much like it would on the traditional printed page, and the interface works 100 times better than the typical internet site, and the tablet you’re reading it on is lightweight and durable, it seems like only a matter of time until the status quo changes.
I’ve sat in on more than a few of these sorts of sessions over the years, where techie types talk of a future sans printed product. The prospect has always seemed remote and theoretical, but not so much anymore. (CS)