I’m trying out the new Times Reader software. It’s based on the Adobe Air platform, so there are no longer separate Windows and Mac versions. I was ambivalent about the previous version, but Times Reader 2.0 is faster and more attractive.
The new version abandons the Times print-edition font — too fussy for the computer screen — with what appears to be Cambria, an excellent choice. Photos are better integrated. Videos are part of the mix. Scrolling is smoother. You can even do the crossword puzzle on your computer — something you were supposed to be able to do on the previous version, though I couldn’t get it to work on my Mac.
The questions remain: Where does this fit in the hierarchy of news products the Times offers, and does it point the way for other papers? Times Reader costs $3.45 a week. It’s definitely a faster, smoother read than the regular, free Web edition, and, once you’ve downloaded the paper, you don’t need a WiFi connection to read it.
But free is free. In addition, the Times Web edition is a livelier place, with more ads (perhaps that will change as Times Reader gains in acceptance), blogs and other extra content. In addition, if you’re a blogger and you want to post something you see in Times Reader, you have to leave, access the Web edition and find the story again in order to grab the URL.
On the other hand, Times Reader really does offer a superior online reading experience. You’re more likely actually to read the paper rather than just skip around. And it’s a lot cheaper (we get the Sunday print edition delivered, so there’s no extra charge for us) — not to mention more environmentally friendly — than the print edition.
Might there come a day when the Times and other papers can dump their print editions and instead offer various paid electronic versions via Times Reader, the Kindle and the like? I don’t know. But I do know that Times Reader 2.0 is a huge improvement over its predecessor.