The Guardian, Digitally

Part of the reason I don’t subscribe to The Guardian, our local newspaper here in Charlottetown, is because I just can’t abide that much newsprint piling up around the house. And the confusion of paper carriers and collecting weekly and all that is just to dizzying to integrate into my daily life.

While I’m not one to jump on the “e-paper” bandwagon, and I find the process of reading stuff on the screen entirely dissatisfying, I’m somewhat intrigued by the digital version of The Guardian released today:

Screen Shot of The Guardian, Digital Edition

To use the product you have to download and install an abysmal proprietary reader application from Zinio (the same folks that bring you Penthouse and Playboy online!), an application that runs so slowly on my relatively modern Mac as to be almost unusable — page flips take about 5 seconds, and searches take about 30 seconds.

And of course because they’re locking all the content inside DRMed proprietary files, you can’t really doing anything with it that’s programatically interesting.

Nonetheless, it might be a handy enough tool to subscribe to: there are only about 3 pages in the paper that are useful and interesting, but they’re an important three pages, necessary for proper execution of life of the Island. I’ll stick with the free trial for two weeks, and see how it takes.


Rob L.'s picture
Rob L. on September 1, 2006 - 19:49 Permalink

I’m getting much better response time than you. Page flips take about 1 second, and a search for the word “editor” returned 19 results in about 3 seconds.

Derek Martin's picture
Derek Martin on September 1, 2006 - 19:51 Permalink

Any idea what it will cost?

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on September 1, 2006 - 20:11 Permalink

I get my PC Magazine via Zineo. I find it a bit slow, but usable. It was much cheaper than the dead tree edition. This is not the case, however, with the Guardian.
The Guardian’s pricing is explained under the Subscribe button at the top. It’s $15.20/month for either paper or electronic edition. If you already subscribe to the paper paper, you can add the electron paper for $10 a month.
I would have thought that the electrons could be delivered to my door much more cheaply than the paper pages, as no one actually has to come to my door. It would appear, however, that these savings are not being passed on.

oliver's picture
oliver on September 1, 2006 - 20:56 Permalink

Is the speed difference a PC vs Mac issue? Or an Explorer vs. Firefox issue?

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on September 1, 2006 - 21:19 Permalink

Zineo runs a flavour of Adobe Acrobat. If you find Acrobat slow, Zineo will be slow, too. Content-rich pages (pictures, lots of small type) are the worst. It depends on the resolutions they use, too. The Guardian may have to do fine-tuning to get a speedy version that works well.

Another issue for some may be the fact that you have to download the edition before viewing it. The Guardian is much smaller than PC Magazine, so download time should not be a problem on all but the slowest dialups. I would tell you the size of the Guardian’s Sept. 1st sample issue, but I downloaded it at work, and I am now home, and, despite the fact that it says that I can download each issue up to three times, attempts to download again give me the message “Our records indicate that you have already downloaded this magazine, or taken advantage of this special offer”. I assume that the paid edition will not experience this glitch. CIO Insight magazine (approx. 110 pages) weighs in at around 5 meg, while PC Magazine, which is graphics intensive and much thicker than the Guardian, runs from 10 to 21 meg. I would guess that The Guardian runs a couple of meg.

Ann's picture
Ann on September 1, 2006 - 21:23 Permalink

Or you could just go to Timothy’s around nine a.m. and read one of the many copies lying around for nothing.

It sounds like it would take less time and is considerably cheaper.

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on September 1, 2006 - 21:34 Permalink

That’s great for you townies, Ann, but I think some of the main subscribers to the digital edition may be non-residents, and summer residents who want to keep tabs on the Island both while here and “away”.
There are also areas of PEI not covered by home delivery, and some people who may not read a paper edition, but might subscribe to the digital edition if the price were right (but not at the same price as the paper copy). There are also many Islanders who travel extensively with work and would appreciate being able to read the complete paper while on the road. They can already use the Web to watch “the program formerly known as Compass” and will now be able to read the paper while away, too.

David Richardson's picture
David Richardson on September 1, 2006 - 23:29 Permalink

Out of curiosity, what are the small number of items that are essential to local life that the newspaper has a lock on?

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on September 1, 2006 - 23:53 Permalink

Pages one, two and three of The Guardian usually contain useful and interesting local news items that are not covered elsewhere (or, if they are covered, are the subject of a brief stripped-down snippet). So #1 is “news about city council, local crime, etc.”.

#2 is the deaths — essential reading for life on PEI.

#3 is, on occasion, the editorial page.

Clark's picture
Clark on September 2, 2006 - 09:50 Permalink

Isn’t all this available on The Guardian website for ‘free’?

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on September 2, 2006 - 11:47 Permalink

Just downloaded the Saturday edition (the largest each week). It weighs in at 17.7 meg, which is slightly larger than an average edition of the bi-weekly PC Magazine. I would suggest that they should do some work to reduce the size, as it would take some time to download on a dialup, and the pages could load slowly on some machines due to the amount of bytes that have to be moved everytime a page advance is done. Pages actually turn quite quickly on my high end laptop. Guardian TV Today is included in the file, too, but not the assorted flyers (Kent, Dell, etc.) packaged with my paper copy.

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on September 13, 2006 - 10:32 Permalink

Since my free two-week trial started, I have received nine digital Guardians — but none today! I haven’t yet made the long trek down my driveway to see if the paper edition is there, but I have been getting used to reading the electronic paper from the comfort of my laptop, while the paper paper sits at roadside.
My PC Magazine arrived just after midnight, so I know that the Zinio service is operational, but there’s no sign of the Guardian!

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on September 14, 2006 - 10:24 Permalink

Today’s digital Guardian arrived on schedule. Still no sign of yesterday’s (I did get the paper one), so I guess we’ll never know what happened.

DerekMac's picture
DerekMac on September 15, 2006 - 17:16 Permalink

Good news! My September 13th digital issue just arrived — at noon on the 15th! I guess we’ll just chalk it up to a startup glitch. I am not going to download it, as I have already read the paper edition, and I have no digital fish to wrap…