There's no two ways about it: much like a lot of print media nowadays, newspapers are in trouble. In the last few months, the once-venerable LA Times has shed many of its veteran writers either through layoffs or people quitting in disgust, and is shedding pages, too: it's getting thinner, and several of its special supplementary sections, like the book review and opinion sections, are gone. The trouble is, fewer and fewer people -- especially younger people -- are bothering to pick up physical newspapers anymore. I'm one of them: I subscribed to either the LA or New York Times on and off for years, since I seem to be physically incapable of eating breakfast without reading a newspaper -- but now that I've let all my subscriptions lapse, I find myself slurping my cereal while reading the paper on my laptop ... and quite liking it.
Of course, we also live in an era that's increasingly sensitive to the uses and potential mis-uses of natural resources, and judging from the vitriolic comments we got in response about unwanted/wasteful phone book drops, I'd say it's fair to assume people realize the relative eco-friendliness of reading newspapers online. But there's only one big problem: it's not what we're used to. Newspapers are very portable, and they're tactile in a way that many people find pleasing (despite the ink that gets on your fingers). That's why I think I've just stumbled across the future of newspapers: a lightweight, portable, flexible screen -- like a newspaper version of the Kindle -- from a company called Plastic Logic. Here's a demo:
It even simulates "turning pages" -- without getting your fingers inky! And like the Kindle, it can be updated wirelessly, and can hold hundreds of pages of documents (ie, several days' worth of newspapers ... or whatever). (Actually, the Kindle can hold several hundred books ... but you can't roll it up and put it in your back pocket!) Hopefully this as-yet unnamed device heralds the future, and would help not only eco-conscious newspaper readers, but suffering newspaper publishers who, in light of printing and circulation costs, are cutting back on the important stuff ... news-gathering.
And if we don't have people out there gathering the news -- and I don't mean bloggers -- then, well ... we're screwed.