Newspapers on Demand From Around the World By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday July 05, 2005

For newspaper fans who would rather browse through a paper than a website, the world just got a whole lot smaller. 

Bay Area residents, if they’re willing to pay a premium, can now get same-day home delivery of nearly 300 papers from the U.S. and abroad, nearly all of which either couldn’t be found on newsstands or arrived days after they were published. 

“It makes me feel a little closer to Japan,” Tanami Fukada, who pays to get her hometown Yomiuri Shimbun delivered to her home in San Francisco. 

The service comes from NewspaperDirect, a six-year-old Canadian company that is the largest distributor of digital newspapers in the world. The company receives PDF files from newspapers as they go to press and then prints the entire edition on tabloid-sized paper for customers from Dubui to Kathmandu. 

Last month, the company sold a Bay Area franchise, My Global Newspapers, that delivers to eight local newsstands as well as hotels and private homes. 

“We think with so many folks from out of state or out of the country the Bay Area is a great market,” said Fassil Befekadu, who along with his partner Paul Fiorello bought the rights to print the papers in Northern California.  

Although they know Internet competition will be fierce, they are counting on customers who prefer the feel of a newspaper and the full content that isn’t always available online. 

Three weeks into their venture they are printing between 70 and 120 papers each day. 

The roster of available titles is enough to make readers salivate. Nearly every major daily from 50 countries is available, including the Times of London, La Republica, El Pais, Le Monde, Pravda, the Hindustan Times, even the San Francisco Chronicle. 

But same-day access has its drawbacks. Since NewspaperDirect doesn’t get advertising revenue and must pay royalties to the papers they publish, the editions aren’t cheap. Prices range from about $3 for weekday editions to over $7 for some Sunday papers. 

NewspaperDirect, which prints about 250,000 papers per month, has traditionally focused its market on high-end users on cruise ships, hotels and embassies. Steven Townsley, the company’s vice president for publishing, said the most popular papers have been London dailies, a testament, he said, to the service’s wider popularity among Europeans.  

“Americans seem to be satisfied with USA Today,” he said. 

Townsley said the service has been most popular in areas with little access to foreign newspapers, especially in the Middle East and Africa. “Zambia came on line for us at the same time as San Francisco,” he said. 

The jury is still out on the Bay Area experiment. 

Befekadu said that immigrant neighborhoods haven’t shown as much interest in the papers as they had hoped, so the entrepreneurs are concentrating their efforts on tourists at hotels and conventions.  

Newsstand sales have been mixed. At DeLauer’s Super Newsstand in Oakland, the service has more than doubled its offering of 250 papers. 

“It’s really great because air freight has gotten so expensive on the standard deliveries we had to stop some of them,” said General Manager Bud DeLauer. He added that the service had increased his ability to serve customers. 

Previously, he said, a customer interested in an out-of-town newspaper had to place an order two weeks in advance. “Now they can come here and say they want a paper and it will be here tomorrow morning. It simplifies the entire process.” 

DeLauer said the newsstand sells about 15 to 20 papers each day, with the two most popular being the International Herald Tribune and the Christian Science Monitor. 

John Valantini, owner of Cavalli Italian Book Store in North Beach, said he was selling about 15 papers most days and up to 75 papers every Monday to soccer-loving Italian sports fans who wanted their favorite Italian sports editions that recapped the weekend games. 

But Fadi Berbery, owner of Smoke Signals in San Francisco, said he was selling about five editions each day. “When people see them they get excited, but when they find out it’s $3.50 a paper, they usually put it back.” 

East Bay residents interested in picking up a paper can find them at DeLauer’s Super Newsstand, 1310 Broadway, Oakland. To inquire about home delivery, call My Global Newspaper at 764-1828.