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.

Friday, July 24, 2009

7 Days of Kindle: Day 1

As an avid reader, geek and techie I couldn’t resist the offer to take the new Kindle 2, Amazon’s proprietary electronic book reader, for a seven-day spin. Having recently read the book, “Julie & Julia” – where author Julie Powell cooks every recipe from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and blogs about it for 365 days, I felt like a week’s worth of blogging was not only doable but sounded like fun. As actress Amy Adams says in the movie version of “Julie & Julia,” ‘I have thoughts!’ And anyone who knows me knows I’m not scared of sharing them.
On Thursday, the package from Amazon arrived and I felt like it was Christmas in July. Though one should not, normally, judge a book by its cover, I like the details. The whimsical phrase on the side of Kindle’s box “Once upon a time…” suggests this will not be any ordinary technical gizmo.

My goal for the next seven days is simple: do all my normal reading on the Kindle and see how it compares. My daily reading diet consists of two daily newspapers, a dozen blogs and an array of four or five books at various stages – in addition to our book club’s monthly selection. To maintain this information influx, I use a combination of laptop, BlackBerry and lug around a duffle bag just for reading material. The idea of swapping those 10-pounds for the sleek convenience of the Kindle, which weighs 10.2 ounces, is exhilarating.

I plug in the Kindle overnight to make sure it’s fully charged and can’t wait until day 2.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

August 2009 Book Club Selection: Gifts from the Sea

As we face the peak of summer, we all slow down just a bit more and start to contemplate life and what’s important. This is a time honored tradition of the season. Author Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote “Gifts from the Sea” in the ‘50s but her advice and contemplation rings true for women of every age and at every stage of their lives, including those living in this fast-paced millennium. Lindbergh’s key question: How can a woman blend all her roles of mother, sister, daughter and friend while still having time for herself?

It was a question the author lived her entire life. Lindbergh led a life of adventure. She is the first American woman who earned a first class glider’s pilot license in 1930 and travelled with her husband, Charles Lindbergh around the world. Their son’s kidnapping, the famed Lindbergh baby case, was the scandal of the 30s. She moved to France shortly after the kidnapping trial and went on to raise five other children.

Lindbergh remained a woman of accomplishment for decades and wrote more than a dozen books. In 2001, she died, just four years before “Gifts” celebrated its 50th year in print. Join us on Monday, August 17 at Barnes & Noble at Carolina Pineville Mall at 7 PM to discuss what I like to think of as a palate cleanser for the mind and soul. RSVP by e-mailing

-Alison Woo

Maryann McFadden Visits Charlotte!

Author Maryann McFadden signs So Happy Together at Charlotte's Park Road Books

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Alison's Audio Blog Post

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