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New York Times Offers “Free” Access to Its Website to Kindle Owners Who Pay $20 a Month

Trying to follow the New York Times’ various pricing policies for electronic access makes my hair hurt.

When the Kindle was first launched, you could subscribe to the Kindle edition of the Times for $13.99 a month.

Then, a year ago this week, the Times announced it was raising its Kindle price to $19.99. Kindle owners could be excused for feeling just a week bit picked on, since the announcement came at roughly the same time that the Times began making a special iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch edition available absolutely free.

That wasn’t very nice, but reading the Times on the Kindle is pretty convenient, and sufficient numbers of Kindle owners paid the higher price that the Times was able to hold on to its position as #1 bestselling newspaper in the Kindle Store.

Then, last Fall, Amazon and the Times worked out a confusing deal that made the Times available free to new Kindle subscribers for two months. Old Kindle subscribers got nothing. Except the price increase.

That wasn’t very nice, or even particularly logical. (Meanwhile, the Times app for the iPad says it will remain free until early 2011. We’re not sure what “early” means, but it is still free.)

Now, today, we have an announcement from Amazon that the Times will make its website free to its Kindle subscribers. That’s the Times website that has always been free, but for which the Times announced recently it will soon begin charging. So, I guess you’d have to say that this is nicer than some of the Times’ treatment of Kindle owners over the past few years. But it does strike me as a strange benefit, because after all, if you are paying $20 a month to read the Times on your Kindle, doesn’t that indicate that the Kindle edition is working pretty well for you, so that you might find yet another online edition sort of redundant?

It’s entirely possible I am missing something here. And I guess I will be pretty surprised if the Times doesn’t announce very soon that there will be a charge for its iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch apps. But far be it from me to predict what the Times might do next, when I can’t see the shaping force of reason or reasonableness behind anything it has done in the past.

In any case, here’s today’s press release from Amazon on the subject:

Kindle New York Times Customers to Receive Free Access to NYTimes.com

Kindle New York Times subscription will include online access at no additional charge

(NASDAQ:AMZN)–Amazon.com, Inc. today announced that customers who subscribe to The New York Times for Kindle will be receiving access to The New York Times Web site at no additional charge. The date for Kindle New York Times subscribers’ free online access is yet undetermined; subscribers will receive further communication via e-mail in the coming weeks.

“Customers love reading The New York Times on their Kindles,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President of Kindle Content. “Given The Times’ transition to a digital subscription model, we’re excited to be able to offer Kindle subscribers online access to all the digital content available at NYTimes.com at no additional cost.”

“The Times’ digital subscription plan was designed to offer access to our high-quality journalism across a variety of platforms,” said Yasmin Namini, senior vice president, marketing and circulation, and general manager, reader applications, The New York Times Media Group. “New York Times readers on Kindle are a very loyal and important audience, and we are pleased be able to include online access as part of their subscription experience.”

The New York Times is the bestselling newspaper in the Kindle Store.

For more information and to order The New York Times for your Kindle, visit www.amazon.com/nytimes.




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