Time to declare an interest (several of them). I use a Mac and I am not a great fan of Windows or of its latest release Vista. So I have not yet tested the new Microsoft reader which is clearly in some ways pretty spiffy. Bobbie Johnson reviews the Daily Mail’s implementation here. But the new Microsoft system is clearly in some sense a serious competitor to the Exact Editions approach (another interest declared). Nor am I too sure how this new environment is being marketed against the old Microsoft eReader which everyone except the Microsoft web pages seems to have forgotten. Should I get off my backside and buy or borrow a new PC with Vista on it? Should I take out my subscription to the new digital Daily Mail? Or should I stick with the old newspaperdirect one?

Not yet. There is something puzzling about the positioning of the new reader. Matthew Ingram has a recent post which surveys some of the problematic issues. If lots of newspapers are going to create their own proprietary implementation of the new eReader, that seems like an awful waste. Surely there should be someway the user can get a bundle of content in the same reader etc? There has also recently been a thread on the disadvantages of PDF-based digital editions of newspapers on the Greenslade blog. These guys are not going to be much happier with a Microsoft download than with the PDF issues. I wonder whether these PDF critics would find the same problem with the Exact Editions system, which does not use a issue-download, but provides access to a full text database of the publication? Maybe ‘yes’ maybe ‘no’, but the comment of Ingram’s that really caught my attention was the suggestion that this style of controlled distribution appeals to traditional media executives because it precludes ‘linking from the outside’. Does he mean this would be seen as a recommendation? I think so.

If traditional media barons still see this as a plus, they have a long way to go in their efforts to understand the twenty-first century. That is the trouble with these issue-based downloads, they are on the web but not of it. The awkwardness of linking-to or citing content is the nail in the plank of most of the issue-download eReaders out there. And if you can not easily link to ads which are themselves interactive links, what is the point of having advertising in digital newspapers? If someone will link me to the Daily Mail’s classified ads pages in the new Microsoft format, I promise to go and take a look.