Tuesday, January 12, 2010

PressDisplay's 1400 periodicals for the Kindle - a Hands on. UPDATE

UPDATE January 12, 2010 - Original posting was Jan. 10, 11:30 AM

NewspaperDirect's Michael Oksinski responded Tuesday to all questions I sent to NewspaperDirect and PressDisplay.com, as described in this blog posting from Sunday night.

First, the image above shows how registered subscribers to PressDisplay's "Pay as you go" option at $0.00 per month can select, from its 1,400 periodicals, up to two articles per periodical, to read online for free each day, in their original print layout.  This is, for me, a great feature apart from the ability to read newspaper issues on our Kindles with original print layout shown.

  Trying to access an article from the thumbnails on the side will cause pop-ups that tell the reader there is $0.00 credit to read an article, so don't click from the right side to choose an article on a free basis -- the Free feature's choice has to be done from the top toolbar's Table of Contents.

  Hovering over the toolbar's Table of Contents option will bring up Sections in a menu and for each option a linked popup with specific article titles you can click to read online, which includes 2 free ones for each newspaper of interest that day.  (I haven't explored what the reading-offline feature entails.)

  The key is the "Table of Contents" in the top toolbar, which in the image above shows a pull-down menu of sections to choose from after I clicked on the TOC.

 This works well for me though it's easy to click on an article I didn't intend to, while hovering over the choices, but that's my problem, so click carefully :-)  The theory is that you can choose up to two articles per newspaper to read for free per day and would be prevented from receiving a 3rd one at no cost for that newspaper that day.  It would normally cost 99 cents to read a third article from that newspaper on the same day.  (There may be a bug on our behalf tonight because I was able to choose more.)

From any area of PressDisplay, click on top left PressDisplay label to go to Home page.

EXPORT to KINDLE function from Online reading via PressReader:
  The Export of a prepaid full issue direct to the attached, recognized Kindle (via USB cable) from online reading still doesn't work for me as it can't "prepare" the article and stays at 0% done - but they are aware of the problem for some PressReader Kindle users and are working on it.

  Workaround for now: download it to your computer, which takes maybe two seconds and just move it over to the attached Kindle.  (PressReader sees the attached Kindle automtically and places itself at the proper drive letter and in the 'documents' folder.  Your computer's 'My Library" Export-to e-reader function (with a choice of "Kindle") works without a hitch (see body of original post below) and I can read the issue from the Kindle.

  Eventually, they'll do this via wireless access to the Kindle, they say.

SOFTWARE anomalies in a downloaded newspaper file
  They are working on the problem reported with The Independent's Sunday Travel section articles missing some column content.  The USA Today issue that I downloaded to test handling of graphics on the Kindle had no problems of any type.

  As with normal copying of text online from, say, the NY Times, a graphic character used for the first alpha character in an article is missed because it's not text.   Kindle Editions from Amazon are able to handle those well.  But Amazon carries only 92 newspapers, though one of my favorite things is Amazon's 75c Sunday NY Times, so nothing takes the place of that for me.

  If someone wants to keep up, offline, with a newspaper not easily available otherwise for the Kindle, this is a good option.   And the choices from so many newspapers and magazines around the world, for Kindle reading, is pretty nice.

  Note that some newspaper publishers have expiry dates for issues in your computer's PressReader library though.  What that means for the Kindle I'll have to ask.   Options are given for shorter or longer times by our choice, possibly depending on publisher.

NEWSPAPERDIRECT replies to Kindle-feature questions
  Here is information received from NewspaperDirect's Michael Oksinski, so you can see the quality of attention he's giving to feedback on experiences with PressReader.  Also, NewspaperDirect's PressDisplay has a Twitter presence as "@PressDisplay" on that interactive service.  Additionally, PressReader users can also write comments to the PressDisplay Blog articles, but Twitter may be more immediate and nicely brief, unlike my floods of words.  From PressDisplay:
' ...
1. As for the Sunday Independent Travel section missing paragraphs, this issue has been escalated to our XML processing team for an immediate fix.
2. Regarding the Export to eReader, I have been informed that changes have been made on the server side that will eliminate the majority of errors like the one you described. Please notify me once again if it's still not working.
3. All registered users have free access to 2 articles from the current issue of any title per day, on our site. Simply select a title and click the Table of contents on the toolbar along the top of the screen (not from Table of content listed to the right of the front page). A drop down menu will appear where you can select the article you want to read, as shown:

As for the navigation of PressDisplay, there are a lot of helpful hints located on our PD help page... '

Original Kindleworld Posting of January 10:

This is an update to the blog entry two days ago about Newspaper Direct's Press Display.Com now bringing the full-content of about 1,400 newspapers and magazines to the Amazon Kindle.

There is also a PressDisplay blog which contains an embedded video showing PressDisplay on the Kindle.  You can also watch it at youtube.

At the left is a print screen or screen grab from my Kindle's PressDisplay issue.

  You'll see, at the top, links to the Table of Contents and to next and previous page numbers.  Next/Previous are easier to do on the Kindle levers though.  The image is smaller to allow navigational text links.

  There's an error in the video about the Next and Previous button taking us to the next and previous 'article' -- this is true if the article page you're on is only one page long.  Next and Previous buttons work as they do on the rest of our documents -- they just go to the next page and previous page.

The first picture in a newspaper and for each section is always a full newspaper shot as it appears in print, and as with any photo in a Kindle book or periodical you can zoom the picture to fill the screen (though the picture resolution will seldom be good that way, except with the San Francisco Chronicle, which does a great job with its photo sizing and resolution).

  See the image on the right for the same newspaper picture zoomed.

  That image isn't meant for reading though.

 Following the newspaper image, there'll be, on the next pages, a text summary and then the full text story in regular text.

Story titles and page numbers will be shown, and when you move the cursor to them, they become bordered in a box that seems to be a barrier.   What you need to do is click on the box and then you can enter the area to choose page numbers.  I've seen this kind of oddity in the formatting of public-domain books (classics) too.

CHOOSING FROM 1400 NEWSPAPERS   [Edited to change 'members' to (registered) 'PressReader users']
PressDisplay.com is not an intuitive site.
  Be sure to take a look at the how-to videos.
  They organize newspaper options on the left by country, and this is a good place to start.

  If that's too vague, do a Search, at the top for a subject of interest.
  The results can be amazing. The search can go back from 3 days to more, depending on your subscription choice.

  Full issues to read online or download or extract to an ereader are usually 99c per issue.
  Here's the Membership or Registered User pricing page for personal use, not business.

  The odd thing is that those having "free" access can read two articles from any and all papers a day but no more than that from any one newspaper.  A third article in a newspaper will usually cost $.99 ... Free accounts can't print, or listen to the audio version, or share the article via email, or get a translation of the article.  All those are available to subscribers.

On that membership pricing page, it has the following in bold print:
"All registered users have free access to 2 articles from the current issue of each publication."

This was not very clear.  The PressReader we're to download has options only for iPhone/Ipod, Blackberry phones, iRex, but none for Kindle or Sony.

  It turns out that we're to (1) download either the PC or Mac software
and install it, after which we can (2) Download the issues to our computer libraries (not unlike iTunes) for reading on the computer and for moving to the Kindle via the "Export to reader" feature.  The latter worked fine for me after it advised me that to use the Export to Kindle function I needed to install ".NET Framework 3.5" or a later version.
  For computers that need it, you can find that here.  I downloaded the Full 3.5 version, not just the bootstrapper.

WIRELESS delivery someday
  In their blog comments area, Michael Oksinski states that they'll be offering this on a wireless basis later as they do for Sony users.

I've submitted a bug report to the blog page.  On the download I received, a main story I wanted is missing several columns, though I can read them fine in the online version there.  The technology online is pretty amazing but it takes time to experiment with all that is there.

I don't totally understand yet how that works. See NewspaperDirect's PR release at PRWeb which includes this:
' Free and Flexible Pricing Plans
From free plans (which offer 2 free articles from every issue every day), to our pay-as-you-go plan, to monthly subscriptions for personal, corporate or professional use, PressDisplay.com has pricing plans to suit every need and budget. '
Are the "free plans" different from the "pay-as-you-go plan," which is also $0.00 ?
  Nevertheless, the pricing page we're shown does say, as I mentioned earlier:
"All registered users have free access to 2 articles from the current issue of each publication."

Well, apologies for this somewhat confusing report of what I could find out while experimenting with this feature.  I'll be interested in others' experiences with it.

Original posting about NewsDirect and PressDisplay was done on January 6. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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  1. There doesn't seem to be an option for a 'Free" plan. It seems to be Pay as You Go, Economy or Personal Unlimited. The only one that doesn't cost is Pay as You Go. I still haven't figured out how to access my two free articles. It seems when I choose a newspaper all I can see is the front page. On the main page of the site there are many article links but it isn't clear how one gets to articles from a specific paper.

  2. Anonymous,
    Supposedly you have to 'register' for the Pay as you go first. Did you do that and still can't see an article?

    The links on the side you click and hold and then move to the article position where the article you want to read is.

    I'm going out for a few hours, but let me know if that works.

  3. Anonymous,
    I registered under another valid name under Pay as You Go, for $0.00 but I too could not get a separate article as it says we should.

    I had written to their blog on Saturday but they are holding onto my questions and my bug report -- in other words they're keeping them from sight for now. I had written to support address too but no replies yet.

    They've been around for ages, formerly Paperboy in the UK, I think, and they have done deals with iRex and some mobile phone makers.

    They need to deal with responses faster now that they're rolling out all the other vendor-unit capabilities. Will follow up on this.

  4. I did register. I found out a couple of things as I poked around (it is definitely a site that keeps useful information to a minimum). When I pulled up the USA Today, at the top is a Table of Contents button, if you click that it brings down a list of the sections. When you click on an item in the list, it shows the articles in the section. You can then select an article. Unfortunately, on the paper I was interested in, no such menu item appeared. I will have to check other papers to see if this is an anomaly.

  5. Anonymous,
    Glad you could pull up the USA Today one.

    That was my first Issue-download because I wanted to see how graphics were handled by the Kindle (they're pretty compressed, which makes sense for speed).

    They updated the blog by including how Kindle users can hook it up and apparently totally ignored my reports that I couldn't Export-To as they describe, when online. It works offline. But the online one just stalled for an hour each time.

    My notes are still being held, so I sent another status update and asked them to respond to one of my feedback notes (I also wrote a websupport-form rpt and wrote to the representative whose email was on the PR release.) But they go by business days and they say it takes 2 business days to get a response.

  6. I had a "Doh!" moment just now. If you are in the PressDisplay viewer and click on the list of available newspapers some have a symbol next to their name that when hovered over says smart navigation eneabled. These are the ones with the Table of Contents and the ability to read articles on other than the front page. I wonder if you downloaded one without smart navigation for the Kindle if it would be just a series of images or would you actually be able to read the articles.

  7. Anonymous
    I received a response from PressDisplay and will do a new blog entry on it later tonight.

    According to the writer, the table of contents or menu is available on any of them (maybe in different places?) and I've not had time to look at this because I'm working on something else and then have to leave for awhile.

    I think reading all the FAQs will tell you what smart navigation is and also have you checked out the video demos I linked to? Again, I've not had time to look at it more today but will late tonight, probably, unless I can get some time before then.

    As for wondering, too bad they do have a free trial paragraph on NewspaperDirect. Maybe try that ?

  8. I meant 'too bad' they don't have a free trial but I did notice one at NewspaperDirect, which is the kind of PressDisplay we are using.

    Haven't tried it yet. I just went ahead with the $10 for 31 issues.

    Thanks for your explorations and feedback. Let me know how it goes.

  9. ALSO, pressdisplay has a representative at Twitter and you can ask questions there directly as well.


  10. I don't think PressDisplay.com is quite ready for prime time as a viable Kindle option. I downloaded the Sunday KC Star today and it's missing entire sections, articles are truncated, some are missing altogether, and some are duplicated. No graphics or pictures at all.

    For $5/month I can download the PDF from the KC Star directly, which is half the cost.

  11. Elmo,
    Thanks. They need to know this -- they apparently released many of these mobile unit capabilities all in one week and have not done enough QA on the downloaded copies for each model.

    MY USA Today (downloaded to see how graphics would work) was actually fine. The Independent, as I told them, had a travel section with many missing paragraphs. They were doing an immediate check into why but I haven't heard back and I did not give feedback yet, as requested, that my online-Export-to-Kindle was not working though the offline-Export-to is.

    To me, it was obvious that the software for downloaded issues was not reading "The Independent" columns correctly that were placed directly under a large photograph that spans an entire page.

    In both of my chosen newspaper issues, I got photos within each story, at top of page and in the middle of a page. I also got the advertisements as shown in the original.
    Always there were graphics that represented the print layout.

    The KC Star is obviously a tons better choice from the newspaper itself. And they need to know about this.

    Thanks much.

  12. I got a request for details on what was wrong with the KC Star, so I sent them some info. From my investigating, it appears that their conversion software has problems navigating an inset article that traverses more than one column. I see a lot of articles that are truncated at the bottom of a column, or have another column's text appended inappropriately.

    Hopefully they'll be able to figure it out and fix it. Other than this, I really like what they've done. Much better than the Amazon newspaper garbage. (Their version of the KC Star is severely abridged, rendering it absolutely worthless. The Sunday edition didn't even have the lead story on Haiti...)

  13. Elmo,
    Glad they were interested in your findings from what you wrote here. The multiple column thing is what was a problem for the missing articles in the Travel section of The Independent. I didn't read the rest of the paper. I was experimenting but interested in the information on Petra in that article
    (largely missing).

    I'm a bit surprised they don't seem to have a process for checking that portions of articles are entirely missing.

    As I said, I haven't heard from them since, and will check what's happening again in a day or so.

    Thanks for the update.

  14. Elmo,
    Sorry to read that about the Kansas City Star in the Amazon Kindle edition.

    Glad to say I haven't experienced problems with the San Francisco Chronicle, which I subscribe to for local news and which has a photo staffer who does the best quality photos I've seen in some of these editions. While I can get this through Kindlefeeder or Calibre, I like the Kindle edition's navigation features to next/back article and the ability to get the list of linked articles within a section, by clicking on the number of articles in one and an immediate jump to any of those articles.

  15. Well I got a cryptic response from them that indicated the problems I had reported with that particular issue had been fixed. They didn't say if they've fixed the problem with the creation of the .mobi file, though.

    I went to pressdisplay.com and looked at the "fixed" issue and guess what? Still no Section F.


    I responded and asked if they've actually made changes to their software, and indicated that I probably wouldn't be purchasing any more from them until that was confirmed.

    Oh well. Great concept. Poor execution. And poor follow-through.

  16. Elmo,
    The online copy of the newspaper I looked at, The Independent, January 8, was FINE in that all the paragraphs were there and the online viewing showed full pages AS printed, and when I zoomed in the print-text was large and clear too.

    The mobi copy is the one that has so much missing in the issue I explored. I was able to tell what was missing by viewing the online version, which was intact, as these were just scans of each page.

    What was in Section F? Is that now the only section missing? There were several before, from what you wrote.

  17. Section F was the Arts and Entertainment section. Lots of articles. Oddly, some of it is still embedded after section E, as I had originally reported.

    Clearly they didn't even perform a simple double-check after they supposedly "fixed" it.

  18. Elmo,
    Arts and Entertainment section !!! GADS.
    I guess they forgot the "F" header.

    Amazon must have good quality control processes going on with the subscriptions (though definitely not so, prior to a couple of months ago, on their public-domain books).

    I'm really surprised that an organization with the quite impressive technical capabilities of NewspaperDirect and Pressdisplay doesn't seem to double-check these things since they do charge $ for them.

    No one's mentioned to me anything about credit due for downloading issues with missing sections all over that one newspaper's issues.

    And yours. We are paying to beta-test it.

  19. Still no further response from their so-called "support". I can only assume they don't want my business. Oh well. Darn shame - it sure looked promising.

  20. Have you tried it again?

    I haven't - no time yet but I will eventually. I'm beginning to think Michael was doing good customer support but maybe that didn't go across well.

    I see they are saying on the blog that one can export from online without explaining that a person like me could wait an hour but it didn't work, which they knew about from other reports and were fixing, but there's been no follow-up with me that it's been fixed.

    The 2nd time I tried it, after some work on it, it still didn't work whereas the export-to-Kindle from the library copy with missing paragraphs and sections COULD export in a couple of seconds.

    As I say, I'll test it again, probably in a few days.

  21. You're so much more patient than me, Andrys. ;> With essentially no real support, I've completely lost interest in their product. Even if it were free, I doubt I'd even bother at this point. My time is worth more than this. I spent a considerable amount of time painstakingly going through the paper and describing the errors in detail, only to get a response that it had been fixed when it obviously hadn't been.

    If they're still in business in six months, I may revisit just out of curiosity to see if they've gotten their act together.


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