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AOL launches Editions into the personal-newspaper iPad app fray

Well before the iPad was even a gleam in the most ardent Apple-lover's eye, the marriage of tablet computing and a personalized newspaper was already a foregone conclusion/killer app in waiting. Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick even captured the possibility of the 'Newspad' in the 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Now we've got scores of apps aiming to deliver the same focused dose of information to iPad users: from social-focused tools like Flipboard, Zite and Taptu to reimagined versions of the daily newspaper like The Daily (not to mention the apps from actual ink-and-paper outfits like USA Today, the New York Times and more). Add to the list a stylish and somewhat innovative offering from our corporate parents at AOL: Editions, launched today and free on the App Store.

Editions bills itself as a "new daily magazine that reads you," and while that may sound a little bit creepy the concept is quite nice. Editions lets you define sections that mirror what you might see in a daily paper: Top News, Business, Tech, and so on. There's even a Local News section that will deliver stories from your neighborhood (partly driven by AOL's hyperlocal Patch.com sites). You choose the sections you want, along with your font size and banner cover, and your magazine starts composing itself -- complete with snazzy cover and weather info where the subscriber label would be. The banner looks like it might be a tribute to Time Inc.'s Western regional magazine Sunset.

Of course, you can get quite a bit more granular than just the high-level section choices. If you hook Editions up with your AOL, Twitter and Facebook identities, the app will take a look at the news sources you mention and the topics you're interested in to sketch a rough profile of the news you can use. You can dive into your complete sources/interests profile and delete the automatic assumptions, or add new ones. A note of community interest: Adding sources is by the name of the site, not the URL, so if you want to find TUAW you need to start typing our full name, 'The Unofficial Apple Weblog.'

As you browse through Editions, you can give instant feedback on the tags/keywords associated with a story: 'show me less about The Bachelorette' or more, if that floats your boat. Similarly, if there's a particular news source you appreciate or one you'd rather not include, just mark them with a check or an X in a story to let Editions know how you feel. Your feedback gets rolled into your personal profile so that the next day's issue has more of what you like to read, and less of what you don't.

Editions is built to download new stories once a day -- actually giving you a limited bite of news, and letting you have the satisfaction of 'reaching the end of the Internet' rather than continuously providing a stream of new content round the clock. True news junkies may furrow their brows at this parsimony, but the experience is a lot like The Daily's reasonable level of content: not too much, not too little, and certainly enough to get you through a morning.

One thing to keep in mind about using Editions is that for most stories, you'll only see an opening excerpt in the magazine interface; when you tap to see more, the in-app browser takes you directly to the news provider's site, thereby delivering pageviews to the original publisher. This is possibly a more ethical (and less litigation-prone) approach than some other newspad apps have used, but the drawback is that you can't do as much reading when you're offline (for that, I'm a big Instapaper fan). The exception is content drawn from AOL-owned sources like the Huffington Post, Patch, WalletPop, Engadget (and, well, us); those stories load in full and are available offline.

If you're looking for an attractive daily news app that's easy to configure and should learn more about you as you read, take a look at Editions and see what you think.

AOL is the parent company of TUAW.

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