This week in web publishing, e-Reader prices get lowered, the Economist examines the viability of mobile news apps and WordPress launches version 3.0.

WordPress 3.0

Last week WordPress, the well-known and widely used web publishing and blogging platform, released WordPress version 3.0. The latest version features more customization options than its previous versions, allowing developers to easily customize backgrounds, headers, shortlinks, menus, post types and taxonomies. It also lets developers update files and plug-ins at the same time.

3.0 comes nearly five years after the debut of 2.0 and with it brings with the ability for multiple blogs to be operated from a single WordPress installation and database. New default themes, more dynamic widgets and new custom menus round out the other features.

For developers the new release brings some exciting new tools with which to play. Yet, for the average blogger, it will be business as usual.

Weighing in on Newspaper Apps

It’s not everyday that the Economist weighs in on the current state of the news industry. Recently they asked the same question we’ve been asking for a long time: will people pay for subscriptions through a mobile app when they can get some version of the same thing on the web for free?

Publishers like apps because they add layers of flexibility as far as design and architecture are concerned. As well, apps give the impression of exclusivity because apps need to be approved by Apple, for example, before they can be available for download. Publishers can also keep tabs on users more easily than on websites, especially with new location-based services integrated into iOS4.

With apps, publishers can also charge more per issue than they can for yearly subscriptions, online or print. However, the benefits that apps bring to publishers still raise the question of viability. Will readers pay for apps? They might if publishers recycle news content into more accessible and easier to navigate special features that can’t be read anywhere else.

An e-Reader Price War

An e-Reader price war is currently being waged between Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook. Both popular e-Readers have slashed prices within the past few days. B&N introduced a WiFi-only version of its e-Reader for $US 149 and reduced their WiFi+3G model to $US 199, from $US 259. In return, the Kindle went from $US 259 to $US 189.

Recently James Fallows of the Atlantic offered his own perspectives about the Nook and the ways that it differs from the Kindle, for good and for bad. Most notably he says

The real differences between the Nook and the Kindle should be thought of as large-scale business model differences, even future-of-publishing-industry differences, rather than look-and-feel differences as you hold the devices in your hand.

What he means, of course, is how they handle advertising, interactive features and open source publishing. The Nook is open and free, while the Kindle is closed and private. Fallows likens them, somewhat appropriately, to Firefox and IE.

Regardless of how they do or don’t display advertising, or how they make e-Books available to readers, lowering the cost to under $US 200 is certain to make e-Readers more accessible to the masses. Now that they are more affordable, soon we will see which appeals to readers based on quality.