The Boston Globe announced yesterday that it was following in the footsteps of other newspapers and launching an ePaper edition for online and print subscribers, according to boston.com. The ePaper version, which mirrors the format of the print paper, can be read on a laptop or downloaded as an app for smartphones and tablets, the article said.
The “replica edition” contains additional digital features such as page-turning, navigation scrolling and bookmarking, the article said. The new version also features a “text-to-speech” option, which can read selected articles or the entire newspaper aloud.
According to the description from the iTunes app store, users can choose a setting in which Apple Newsstand automatically downloads the paper daily, just like a print version would be delivered each day. The description also states that users can click on articles to access embedded links or share those articles on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Subscribers can obtain the ePaper from bostonglobe.com or download the app from the iTunes store, while non-subscribers can purchase single issues for $0.99 or in-app subscriptions for $14.99 per month, the article said.
Globe publisher Christopher M. Mayer said in the article that the ePaper version is meant to complement the Globe’s other formats and make the paper available in areas where Internet access is not readily available, such as during flights.
“Part of the strategy is to introduce additional digital products that allow our readers to connect with our journalism in a variety of ways,” Mayer said. “We’re constantly looking at ways to increase the value of a Boston Globe subscription.”
NewspaperDirect, which uses its PressReader app to create ePaper versions of newspapers and magazines, produces the Boston Globe ePaper, in addition to versions by The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune, the article said. PressReader produces more than 2,000 ePapers, according to the website.
Although the Globe aimed for the ePaper version to combine “the sensation of reading the print newspaper with the convenience of mobile communication,” some might call replica editions inconvenient for the modern digital reader, if not regressive.
For those reading news on mobiles, ePapers might not be best suited for smaller platforms such as the iPhone. In the case of smartphones, a more digital-savvy app design may be preferable, such as The Guardian’s categorized mobile app. Newspapers could also offer different modes of reading their ePaper editions to make the experience more accessible; the iTunes description of the Globe app mentions a “SmartFlow” view where readers can simply access text and photos, for example.
For tablet readers, the notion of a replicated paper makes more logistical sense, and the page-turning capacities of the app suggest that the experience really imitates print reading.
PandoDaily takes issue with this replication philosophy, however, decrying the “anachronistic page-turning mentality baked into the apps and a copied-and-pasted design lifted directly from the versions you buy at the drug store” of digital magazine journalism. The fact that each publication has a separate app also makes for a bothersome user experience, PandoDaily said.
For readers used to a browse-oriented news gathering approach (in which one story links to another story, etc.), ePapers might seem limited at best and constricting at worst. For those still attached to print, however, ePapers could be the ideal transitioning tool for readers to transition to online subscriptions.
With all of the uncertainty in digital, the safest bet for newspapers seems to be variety: by offering their product in a number of different platforms, and consistently updating and adapting these platforms, publishers can hopefully attract wider pools of digital readers.