Slam #1 - Newspaper Alternative

Is it not incredible how fast Newspaper piles grow? While the stock used is very light, and possibly easily biodegradeable, the processes used to create it would have immense environmental impact- imagine how much paper could be saved if newspapers were somehow digitized into a format which offers an honest replacment for the physical version.

I accept that a laptop with internet connection might allow the daily ‘newspaper’ to be read at the table, but I would like to create a device that is more specific, and thus more accessible to the average reader. A dedicated digitalized version, which is engineered specifically to allow reading a newspaper in environments such as the kitchen table, beach, cafes, trains etc. is what I intend. It would use some form of modem to both download the daily news, and broadcast a code to the publisher which identifies the user and invoices them, on-line time would therefore be quite low. A payment system would be crucial, if this device is expressly designed to replace printed newspapers. A datalink directly to the publisher would be desirable, so no 3rd parties are involved.

For the device itself, I would like to look at flexible screens. For the main screen, a black and white format will be continued- is there some form of textile that could have minute points wired in that either depict black or white, thus forming a greater image? High-resolution is not important, insofar as a newspaper’s production values are not terribly high. I planned to have a device that folds down to the size of a rolled-up newspaper, with an open size about the same as a single tabloid sheet. So this format would support the idea of either a electrically controlled fabric as above, or some form of miniature projection device. A secondary screen of much smaller size could be used to enhance articles of interest with extra media. Interface controls would be very tactile, dealing with page turning, selecting articles of interest- possibly saving them to a hard drive, and connection/payment options.

The device could either be bought outright, the user then downloading newspapers from a variety of sources, paying each time; or it could be bundled with a subscription deal, automatically updated each day. Perhaps newsagents could provide stations to download the daily news, although this would waste the digital convenience.

I need to do some further brainstorming on numerous aspects, I just wanted to rough out the idea here for the moment.

This idea has been explored ad-naseum in the mid 1990’s.

I’d recommend researching all of the work done to date (eBooks, Print-on-Demand, eInk etc.) in order to identify the “updated need” or what key issues are preventing this from being realized. (Here’s a starting point:

Here’s a famous attempt we should all recognize:

FYI, against all odds, SONY just released this last year:

I personally like AvantGo, since I can clip a variety of news sources and put it on whatever portable device I want (my choice is my old PalmVx) …But RSS clipping is the clear future.

I rarely read the newspaper these days, most often getting my news from the internet or TV if it happens to be on for some reason. The only reason that my fiance or I buy a newspaper is to scan the classified for whatever it is we need at the time or to get coupons. An electronic newspaper would probably encourage me to read newspapers more often, especially if I didn’t have to go out of my way to get change and find a paper box.

To really encourage people to go electronic over printed newspapers or online news sites, you’ll have to make the recieving device unbelievably inexpensive, along with subscription fees to match current newspaper prices.

I’m sure that there are some improvements that can be made to the products that have already been explored and produced - you seem to be on the right track, so far.

My initial intent was to create a product that wasn’t so much a deivative of a PDA, mainly for the reason that a newspaper works because of the sheer mass of information presented on a single page, it is an object you can tangibly hold. I also wanted the technology to be more concealed, and far simpler- functionality would simply consist of page turning, payment, and some replacment for clipping articles- in this case a form of electronic saving.

While I would love to use flexible screens like this,

I understand they may be some way off. However, I was thinking of an equally unproven idea, but one which may be possible for a large display:

A back unit would consist of 1000s of on/off points, which could be instructed to hold an electromagnetic charge. Above this unit, are sealed particles, or an electrostatically-charged liquid. The idea would work much like a photocopier, so the rear screen would create an electromagnetic map of the newspaper file, and the particles/liquid would be driven across this map in an action which would mimic the page turning event. The charge would remain in place untill the next page was required, holding the image. The outward appearance would be fairly rough, but would overcome energy demands of a large LCD screen, would facilitate an A3 sized viewing area, and would give more of an impression of reading print, rather than off a screen. The charge device could be created like a textile, so would remain fairly thin, 3 of these screens would fold down to the original rolled-up newspaper size.

newspapers are a shared item. between friends. and strangers on trains. what makes this item worth the trouble of preserving it? carrying it and guarding it against theft? being mindful of it?

It may also be a point that newspapers are generally available everywhere, whereever they can be purchased. This means all you have to carry with you to gain access to one is the money required to buy one.

In my mind any type of replacement would have to retain this kind of spotenaity of action from the user.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t get a newspaper delivered and generally don’t plan on when I am going to buy one. Therefore any device would have to be small enough for me to carry anywhere without noticing it, yet difficult to forget. Something that would easily fit inside my wallet maybe?

I think you’ve set yourself a dificult challenge and I look forward to seeing what further ideas you come up with.

IBM has developed an electronic newspaper prototype,2393,l=&s=400&a=43845&po=9,00.asp

Harris I want to applaud you for taking this on.

I like the idea of the textile type display you’re talking about.

I imagine (correct me if I’m wrong) that this type of thing would be relatively cheap and yet durable. Maybe it would be nice to make it more so. It would be something that you could buy (or have delivered) as a single issue of a newspaper or periodical stored in some kind of memory accessible by an external port.

It seems realtively easy to imagine that they could be recycled (like newspapers are) and somehow re-programmed either at home or back at the news-stand.

Maybe it would require a deposit that would be returned when the paper was recycled. Then you’d have to come up with a way to track it–but maybe then you’d be willing to leave it on the train, expecting someone else to eventually recycle it, provided the deposit wasn’t too big.


Cost and tech may be key here, but there could be a potential early adopter market. Think coffee shop/ cafe/ bar. Rechargeable units available to patrons while visiting. With the proliferation of wireless networks in such places, real-time updates would possible. The units could replace the countless disorganized often incomplete papers found lying on tables… or maybe the units are integrated into tables…or is that another product?

In the old Soviet Union, they used to post newspapers on signboards for people to read without paying. Not quite the same as electronic, but the paper equivalent to the various online news channels that are currently available. And of course, the latest iteration is the blog.


I think this is right on the money. With Weblogs and RSS, it’s easily possible to create your own “News service” using only a palmpilot (I’ve been doing it for the last year on the way to work. I download all my RSS feeds – around 40 – and read the content on the bus)

But the spontaneity of buying a newspaper is something very important to consider. It’s not a question of web-savvy-ness, or having the right styling for the physical reader; Most of what people are buying with a newspaper purchase is the opportunity to get a bunch of news, without effort or planning. You don’t have to plan a long string of information gathering phone calls to your contacts for the weather, sports scores, nightlife info, etc. You don’t have to sort through a bunch of stories you’re overhearing on the bus. And you definitely don’t have to carry something around with you, and remember it every day.

So what if there was a solution that was a little more simple.

What if you picked up a “newspaper” at a news stand, the same way you always do. Except this one is “Printed” on a durable sheet of tyvek, or e-paper, or some as-yet undiscovered plastic stuff. Now, when you are done reading the news, you drop off the piece of “paper” at a receptacle or another news stand. There. Solved. Obviously it’s not that easy.

I propose that the challenge here isn’t to design a new reader for the news – that’s been done, and is realatively simple with the right flexible screen, OLed’s and whatever other tech-goodies you can squeeze into it.

The trick here is to develop the system by which the paper gets used and re-used, without eliminating the spontaneous, and carefree treatment of the news-storage object.

If you try to make a news reader which is designed to be kept with you at all times, I think that the first “innovations” of the new reader will be lower and lower cost, to the point where the reader is de-facto disposable, even though it may have a much higher cost of energy to make, and chemical waste than paper would have. Look at what has happened to cellphones – don’t you think that the newsreader companies would like to get a fashion cycle going with their readers?

I think some re-use, or re-introduction of old newspaper parts back into the system from the begining is the best way to combat this.

another one without much activity. unfortunate. this has a recent (failed) history to learn from. any hope of seeing something here?