Sunday, January 20, 2013

Roanoke Times readers have new options

From the newsroom

Carole Tarrant, editor

carole.tarrant @roanoke.com





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Digital products

My 11-year-old has an iPad growing out of his arm.

Well, not really, but the tablet I got for me two years ago has become his No. 1 toy. It has surpassed even the Nintendo 3DS and Wii — amazing!

The other night, as I reclaimed the iPad for my own use, I once again marveled at the technological wonders of today. So much has changed, so quickly.

I wished I'd kept my first home computer, a Mac Classic II, for my son to see. That little white box held magic, I thought at the time (circa 1992). Its squeaky dial-up tones signaled the delivery of vast and exciting new worlds of information.

My son will never know of that early Internet time, yet even he has now experienced his first moment of tech nostalgia. This Christmas, the Wii U rocked his world, merging just about every digital device he uses. It's left us both still shaking our heads in wonder.

So much has changed, but I like to think for the good — at least in terms of delivering those vast and exciting new worlds of information. Today, the desktop successors to that Mac Classic II are joined by an array of devices — all miraculously untethered from wires and cords. Tablets, smartphones and, the latest, the combo "phablet,"all deliver those worlds of information to you wherever you are.

That information, of course, includes what we do here at The Roanoke Times, reporting on news of Southwest Virginia. I'm happy to tell you that we now have many more digital and highly mobile options for reading our journalism.

But before I elaborate on those options, let me first explain a key point: Our digital products basically come in two versions.

The first follows the format of our website, www.roanoke.com. I like to call this "the living organism" version, because the site is just that — updated throughout the day with stories and images as news develops. It's also where you can engage with us online, joining the discussions in our vibrant blogging community. Roanoke.com is now home to 23 blogs where you can catch up on subjects as diverse as Virginia Tech recruiting, Zone 7 gardening, Roanoke's music scene and last fall's deer hunting season.

If you're on the go and looking to check out this fast-changing version of what we do, type "m.roanoke.com" in your smartphone browser and you'll find the mobile version of our website. It offers you the essentials — breaking news and weather info — right out of the gate.

But we have another version that may seem, in some ways, like a voyage back to the future. It's the digital replica of the daily printed newspaper — literally, what you see in each morning's edition, each page as it appears with stories and photos selected by our editors the previous night.

We call this version The Roanoke e-Times, and it's available to all current subscribers at no additional cost. To get started, you'll need the phone number or email associated with your subscription. Then go to roanoketimes.com to register for a digital subscription.

Once you log in, you have several options to access the e-Times. If you have an iPad, you can go to the iTunes store and download our replica app. (The app itself is a free download, but remember you have to be a subscriber to get the log-in required to activate it.)

If you have a Kindle, Nook or other tablet with an Internet browser, log in at www.roanoketimes.com. Type in that same Web address on your smartphone browser, log in and you'll be in business — no app required.

You might like the e-Times' ability to zoom in and enlarge the type — a feature that may please readers whose eyes, like mine, aren't what they used to be. The iPad app has the added bonus of allowing offline reading — download the paper once in the morning, and then read it later without a wired connection. All versions of the e-Times let you read and search the previous 30 days of newspapers, and include our community publications such as So Salem and The Burgs.

Now, that's a quickie explanation. If you need more help, check out our FAQ at www.roanoke.com/digitalsubscription. There you'll learn more about another new option — going paperless with a digital-only subscription.

So, which version of The Roanoke Times is for you — the "living" website of roanoke.com or the daily digital snapshot of the e-Times? I encourage you to try them both and let me know what you think.

I imagine that Mac Classic II would throw out sparks if it tried to process a tiny smidgen of the information available to us now, a fact that quickly dampens my nostalgia for an earlier time. Like my son, I'm eager to see what the Wii U has to offer — and, for that matter, explore what else we can offer you in the future.

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