The New York Times has announced plans to make its text available on compact disk, joining the growing number of newspapers to do so.
The primary market for compact disks is libraries, and The Times announced its plans at a meeting of the American Library Association in Atlanta yesterday.
Increasingly, publishers are taking advantage of the storage capacity of the small plastic compact disks, an offshoot of the audio compact disk.
A single disk is capable of storing the equivalent of 250,000 double-spaced typed pages. The disks are played on a special CD player connected to a personal computer. By giving instructions to a computer, a researcher is able to search quickly for specific words or topics.
The New York Times has not yet set prices for its disks. The Boston Globe charges about $2,000 for two years of back issues and $900 a year for each additional year.
The Times will be available on disk next year. The disks will be produced and marketed by University Microfilms International, which also provides libraries with The Times on microfiche.
Unlike microfiche, which provides a picture of the newspaper, a compact disk carries only the text of articles.
Katharine P. Darrow, The New York Times Co.'s vice president for broadcasting and information services and corporate development, said selling The Times disks to libraries would only be the first step.
She said The Times would consider creating a disk with images as well as text once there was a sufficient number of CD players attached to home computers.
The players, Darrow said, "have only just begun to spread out."
Under a basic subscription, customers will receive disks monthly, and each disk will have the accumulated issues for the previous month. In addition, the package will also include two years of back newspapers.
Issues dating back to 1981 will be available.
In addition to The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and other papers have announced plans to publish back issues on compact disk.
Linda W. Helgerson, president of Helgerson Associates, which publishes information on the compact disk industry and is based in Falls Church, Va., said yesterday that with advertising revenues declining, newspapers see electronic publishing as a way to earn additional profits.
Publishers were initially wary of electronic publishing, she said, but "after many years, newspapers have figured out that it is not going to compete with their print business and that it will add revenues."
Most big newspapers, including The New York Times, are now available on microfiche and through data banks that can be reached by computers using telephone lines. The compact disks are much less expensive than on-line services, which cost as much as $200 an hour.