The New York Times's iPad Fight Was Part of a Longer Civil War

The New York Times's bizarre idea to perhaps double the price of its electronic edition for Apple's iPad — to $30 per month — is just the latest chapter in a long internal fight over pricing versions of Times Reader.

Yesterday, we wrote about how the Times print circulation department wants to control the iPad edition and price it at $20 to $30 per month, according to a Times source, while the digital team wants control so it can charge $10 per month.

Several commenters and email correspondents then asked why there's even a debate over pricing, given that the Times Reader already costs $15 per month to read on a regular computer, and the iPad NYT is essentially Times Reader on a different device.Why would the Times charge twice as much for the same thing on a machine without the keyboard and with a sharp touchscreen?

In short, because of mounting fear over protecting the print edition, fears that raise the stakes in a long-running internal battle at the Times over how to price non-Web digital copies of the paper ala Times Reader.

The dispute goes at least to the launch of Times Reader three years ago. A Times source tells us the PC application was originally supposed to cost $6 per month, but the price was raised to $15 before launch because Times Company executives feared too many print subscribers would cancel at the lower number.

Now that they have another crack at setting new prices on a new device, the old guard within the Times Company ranks is apparently trying to defend print subscriptions even more vociferously. Good luck with that.

(Pic: Times Reader at this year's Macworld Expo by JD Lasica.)