A Newsstand for the Tablet that might work

“Newsstand” by triin on Flickr.

Mario Garcia probably believes the lifespan (halflife?) of print newspapers will stretch out ever so slightly longer than I believe, but I’m constantly inspired by his original thought about the problems associated with sustaining any version of the existing structure of journalism, assuming for the moment that it’s a good idea.

And of course, he’s thinking about the Tablet. (I’m going to try to avoid focusing on any single product here, instead using the word “Tablet” as code for: multitouch slab of glass with applications and payment systems built in. Maybe there will be more than one entry in that genre.)

Here’s Mario on something he calls a street sales app:

“Based on this, I can imagine that the iPad could lure the undecided (or reluctant) newspaper reader by offering a menu of headlines from various sections of a newspaper—-or from various newspapers, of course, and make it so interesting, that I may click to read that story, and pay for that one-time user experience.”

Let’s take that a big step beyond a list of headlines.

We’re talking about a physical, visual device that allows the user to move things around with their hands. OK, their fingers. Fine. But that allows us to present the user with — instead of a list of headlines — a stack of newspapers.

Yes, yes, I know, I know, you don’t want to read a giant PDF on a Tablet, you want the Web. You want the full browsing experience, or if you’re thinking is slightly more advanced, you want a completely new sort of interface that’s more Minority Report than Washington Post.

I’m right there with you.

But there’s something that a “Washington Post” app for the Tablet removes from the equation, even if you’re smart enough to build it with in-app purchases of feature/exclusive/enterprise stories, puzzles, and databases.

It removes choice from the equation.

A choice that we do have when we open up an RSS reader and look at a list of 100 headlines in the morning.

A choice that we do have when we walk by a newsstand on the way to the subway station.

Now, truth be told, when I walked by the newsstand on the way to the subway station, I was already in a silo, with steadfast plans to purchase a New York Times and do the crossword on the way to the office. But at least I’d see the other papers, the other headlines.

So maybe a real live Tablet Newsstand is a good idea. If I’m not going to purchase a subscription to the New York Times, maybe I’ll glance at the headlines and buy a copy on my way to the office now and then. Maybe I’ll want to do the crossword. Or maybe I’ll see a great headline in the San Francisco Chronicle and buy that instead.

After all, the interfaces for a bookstore and library that Steve Jobs showed off the other day didn’t offer one chapter at a time, or one story at a time, they offered a book, sitting on a shelf.

Engadget’s photo of Steve’s slide.

(Yes, I’ve heard of Delicious Library.)

Of course, things brings up all sorts of interesting questions about which newspaper and magazine publishers would be willing to go in together on this sort of thing. They’d have to build the app themselves, decide how to split up the revenue, who to feature on which pages — this is all the sort of thing they might have preferred Apple take care of, eh?

So I’m interested. I’m interested in a newsstand that provides some opportunity for serendipity and revenue, not based on subscription models or paywalls, but based on the idea that I might pay something like 99 cents for a Tablet version of the New York Times when I’m in the mood to interact with it and, most likely, fiddle with the crossword on the way to work.

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