K-R GRAPPLES WITH PAPER ON A COMPUTER TABLET

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Roger Fidler expects people to read personalized daily newspapers on portable flat-screen computer tablets by the end of the decade.

As the director of Knight-Ridder Information Design Laboratory, Mr. Fidler is working to make that vision a reality.

A Knight-Ridder newspaper late this year or early next year will test an electronic edition that will be downloaded into personal computers. Computer tablet technology probably won't be affordable until 1996 or 1997, he says.

This version of an electronic newspaper "will build on the familiar characteristics of the printed newspaper so readers can browse easily without a manual," Mr. Fidler says.

Each screen will feature four or five story summaries, with full text and graphics available by clicking the computer mouse.

As with printed papers, there will be ads. But readers will be able to get more information than existing display ads allow. Also, readers will be able to interact with advertisers and place orders, make reservations or request free samples.

"Most important is the ability to initiate a transaction," Mr. Fidler says.

For advertisers interested in video ads, the "paper" eventually will present ads and news photos in full-motion video with sound.

To meet the interests of individual readers, this electronic newspaper will give them the information and advertising that matches their interests and omit undesired stories or sections.

However, all ads will be available in an index and in various shopping formats.

Knight-Ridder Information Design Laboratory already has presented this vision to advertisers and agencies.

"Our goal is to keep costs of the editorial product as low as possible and that means it will be subsidized by advertising," Mr. Fidler says.

Mr. Fidler was behind Knight-Ridder's failed $50-million Viewtron videotext experiment in the mid-1980s. He attributes its failure to high cost, limited capacity and drab presentation.

"It was the wrong model," he says simply.

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