Are newspapers dead? I’ve always been a newspaper junkie, and for most of my life I’ve had the front page or sports page lying open while I eat breakfast. But over the last few years, that habit has changed. Nowadays, instead of the broadsheets, it’s an iPad sitting next to my coffee and bacon.
Well, thanks to an application called PressReader, I can now have the best of both worlds.
PressReader boasts a catalog of over 2,300 newspapers from almost a hundred countries, in 55 languages, with most issues updated daily. And by “newspapers” I mean the actual and exact pages you’d get from the physical copy, including all the print ads, obituaries, comics, and classifieds. It’s pretty much a perfect scan of every page of your favorite paper, delivered to your screen. As of this writing, PressReader is available for iOS, BlackBerry, Android and Windows devices.
There’s a hefty serving of Philippine-specific publications, 32 of them to be exact. You’ve got majors like the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star, as well as more niche-y, smaller papers like SuperBalita Cebu and Bandera. PressReader allows sorting by both language and country of origin, as well as an easy ranking system that puts the most popular titles up top.
On my Retina iPad, PressReader is absolutely gorgeous. I didn’t need to pinch or zoom anything; the page fits the screen completely and even the smallest text is legible and readable. On a Nexus 7 or even my Galaxy S3 phone, the pages weren’t as clear, however. But there’s a workaround!
I’ve always been annoyed by newspaper articles that start on the front page and then jump to a random location like “Section A Page 12″. With PressReader, I can avoid that completely: click on the title of the article and it takes you to a page where the entire article is laid out for easy reading, with no jumps required. Font size is also adjustable so I wound up using this view more often when reading on my Nexus 7 or on my phone. Even better, you can click on a little speaker icon and the article is read out loud to you in a synthesized voice that sounds eerily natural (except of course for mispronouncing and mangling names like Manny Pangilinan). Great for “reading the news” while I shave in front of the mirror in the morning.
Of course, the best part of PressReader is that I’m not just limited to local papers- I have access to newspapers from all over the world. It’s fascinating to download the Los Angeles Times and read about a Laker game from the home team’s point of view, or to grab a copy of the Toronto Star and see what’s new up where my brother lives. And of course, it works the other way around: if you’re an expat Pinoy or even just travelling abroad, it’s nice to be able to keep abreast of what’s happening back home in Manila.
I have absolutely no issues with PressReader (that’s a pun – do you see what I did there?) but of course nothing this good comes without a cost. The app itself is free; however there is a charge for the content itself. “Casual” customers, as PressReader calls them, can avail of individual issues at $0.99 per copy. Considering that the newsstand price for an issue of the Philippine Star is P20, this means you’d be paying roughly double for a digital version and thus it’s totally not a good deal, at least when it comes to local newspapers.
However, if you’re a news junkie, then you may want to consider the monthly rate of $29.95, which is an eat-all-you-can plan that allows unlimited access to all countries, all languages, and all titles, with two weeks’ worth of back issues in case you need it. In fact, if you already subscribe to at least two or three local newspapers, you should probably cancel your physical subscription outright to help offset the cost of a monthly PressReader account. There are even corporate and professional monthly subscriptions for $100 and $200 with even greater archive and back issue access – good for researchers and institutions.
I recently watched a great documentary called Page One: Inside the New York Times. It dealt with the changing world of media and the potential death of the newspaper industry, now that everyone can get their news from Twitter, Facebook, and the web. I don’t know if or how soon newspapers will become completely extinct, but an app like PressReader may just help delay that demise a bit.
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