Saturday, July 25, 2009

7 Days of Kindle: Day 2: Newspapers

At our recent fourth anniversary celebration of “Speaking Volumes” (Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s book club which I’ve been running since 2005) I shared with book club member and former librarian Felicia Lee (seen left with fellow book club member Lena Claxton) that I one of the first things I do after I open my eyes is read the New York Times on my BlackBerry. She seemed shocked. And possibly aghast.
My love for the NYT started when a substitute teacher during third grade teacher at P.S. 209 in Brooklyn cracked the code and demystified how to read the front page, pointing out that the top right corner above the fold was the lead story. From thereafter every Saturday night at around 10:45 PM, I remember going to the newsstand with my mom or dad, buying the Times and picking up some freshly made bagels and settling and starting to read the sections. It felt so exotic reading the Sunday paper on Saturday. Watching old school wrestling with the likes of Bruno Samortino added to the fare.
I was most curious what would reading newspapers on the Kindle be like.

Kindle offers 44 newspaper subscriptions with the majority (33) of them U.S. newspapers. National newspapers such as the NYT, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal are here as are many the dailies in major cities but the southeast is sorely underrepresented. The only ones offered are from Atlanta and Richmond. But if you want to read the Shanghai Daily or Le Monde, you are in luck.

I’m in a bit of a sticker shock. To read the papers on the Kindle you have to pay a monthly subscription fee, which ranges from $5.99 for the Orlando Sentinel to a whopping $14.99 for the Wall Street Journal. The Times is $13.99. While there are whole conversations within the media industry to try to monetize their online content, most newspapers (except for the WSJ which started out and continues to offer a fee-based subscription online) are free. I can read the entire Sunday NYT online with my laptop for free. The good news is that they offer a two week trial. I sign up for the NYT, USA Today and WSJ.

Kindle’s electronic ink makes it very easy to read in both direct sunlight and shade. I would love it if they would consider adding a nightlight for easier reading in bed. But with the flexibility of changing the font to six different sizes, reading was easier.

The 6 inch screen is wider than my PDA, which makes reading even swifter. What I’m not crazy about is the way the newspaper publishers display their content. On my PDA, I can swiftly scan all the headlines and choose what I want to read. On the Kindle, the content is broken down into main headlines such as Front Page, National, International, Arts and so on. I use the new five-way toggle to skim the articles and I can clip the ones I want to read later, a handy feature. But I find this lack of navigation has me hitting the “Next Page” button again and again. The effect of this feature has me reading far more than just a few articles. After an hour, I feel like I’m incredibly well read.

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