With the future of newspapers lying in digital form, does this upgraded app make websites yesterday’s news in the media industry?
While newspaper apps are nothing new – as the New York Times Editor’s Choice and USA Today apps are mildly successful on tablets – those who prefer a more traditional newspaper experience are left with limited digital options. I suppose they could do the unthinkable and pick up a printed copy, but at the risk of being mocked for ink-stained fingers, readers looking for a digital replication of their favorite newspapers will find solace in Press Reader.
Powered by Newspaper Direct, the PressReader app provides instant access to over 1,900 newspapers. And just like daily home delivery or buying individual broadsheets, customers can choose from a subscription option or buy one paper at a time.
The original app debuted on the iPhone last year, though this updated edition of PressReader makes good use of the tablet’s screen offering. I will note that certain, larger, tablets provide users with greater screen real estate to surf the paper compared to those slates on the smaller side of the spectrum, like the 7-inch BlackBerry PlayBook, which I used to conduct this review.
In the Store page you can search and scroll through newspapers from 95 countries, or you can narrow down your selection by the paper’s name or language. Within seconds I was able to find the local Boston Herald, however, to my dismay the collection did not offer the Boston Globe or the New York Times. The app allows you to ‘favorite’ papers, letting you quickly find them again, and users can download issues dating back two weeks (depending on your subscription) from the current issue.
When I downloaded the Los Angeles Times (which took about four minutes) on a recent rainy morning, I was greeted with 95 percent of the newspaper’s front page, with just the bottom being slightly cut off. A simple scroll down brings the remainder of the paper into view. While the font is incredibly tiny, a tap on the blue highlighted headline pulls up a convenient pop-up window with the full text of the story. Within that window you can increase and decrease font size, as well as email the story’s link to a friend, post it on Facebook or Tweet it to your devoted followers.
If your eyes are still heavy with sleep, you can have a story read to you by tapping the headphones icon. This feature is still a bit awkward as there are no control buttons to pause the audio and it was not available on the BlackBerry PlayBook during the time of this review. Yet, I had the pleasure of listening to the female automated voice attempt to pronounce “Obama” on the Android-based Lenovo IdeaPad K1. Browsing pages is as easy as swiping from left to right, and you can view in either single page or double page format.
A full table of contents is also available at the top of each page, making the experience much more authentic, giving those who take pleasure in the layout of a newspaper something to enjoy as well. A nice feature of PressReader is its completeness. Rather than start an article on A1 and finish it on A10, PressReader provides readers with the full article in one text box.
During the review process, I debated what demographic PressReader is primarily targeting. It’s certainly not readers looking for fast paced, real time information; the app only provides the newspaper for that day, which means any news that happened after print time will be in the next day’s paper. So I suppose PressReader is best suited for those who prefer the writing and in-depth reporting style of print media, but in digital form. As news sites compromise well researched articles for the chance to break a story, some websites are only good for a quick briefing of the day’s most recent stories. However, PressReader allows news junkies to relish in thousands of newspapers, many of which feature thorough stories. I also believe a thriving clientele will be expatriates. As PressReader offers newspapers in 49 languages, including some real obscure papers, like the Alayam Arabic paper from Bahrain, those dispersed around the world will be able to access their local newspapers with the tap of a finger. Though a translation option is not offered, it would have been an interesting feature to have.
One frustrating aspect of PressReader is its significant gaps in coverage. As I previously stated, the New York Times is not available and neither is the Wall Street Journal. These papers, along with other major publications, do not appear in PressReader’s vast library.
This complaint aside, PressReader offers a more traditional newspaper-reading experience than any newspaper app I’ve encountered, especially since it offers the entire paper rather than selected stories. Ultimately, I don’t see this app replacing news websites since each covers different news angles. Those looking for the latest breaking story enjoy the swiftness of websites, yet readers looking for a new take on the conventional newspaper will love PressReader.
Those interested can download seven current-day issues of any paper free of charge, though after that, each issue will cost 99 cents or users can pay $29.95 a month for unlimited access.