My newspaper of choice is the Guardian. Recently they were forced to increase the cover price and ever since have been running a series of advertisements for various forms of subscription which will lower the cost from some £35.00 pcm (if you include its sister paper the Observer on sundays) to as little as £9.99 if you go for the kindle option.
The economic case for change is unarguable. A saving of over £20 a month, plus you get the “paper” delivered to your breakfast table in seconds over the airwaves. No need to go out in the rain down to the shop to pick up a copy (I live in the sticks and the local shop won’t deliver to us). No disappointment when they have sold out (it happens). No waste paper as I immediately bin the sports section. No waste paper when I eventually discard the bits I do read. And it would mean that I actually use the kindle as something other than a rather expensive paper weight. The Grauniad even kindly offered a two week free trial if you signed up.
So I tried it. I really did. But it just didn’t work for me.
To be fair practically all the editorial is there. And the layout is pretty good. Down the left hand of the screen you see the headings for the main sections – Top Stories, UK News, International, Financial etc. whilst on the right hand side you are given the headlines for each of the main stories in each section. The layout also makes good use of the kindle’s navigation features so it is easy to skip from one article to another or even from one section to another. But it lacks that essential aesthetic which makes a good newspaper. I’m sorry, but the medium is the message – at least it is over the breakfast table.
I don’t read a newspaper in serial, article after article, front to back form. I skip about. First I throw away that useless sport section. Then I start at the back of G2 with Steve Bell, and flick back two pages to Doonesbury. What? No Steve Bell? No Doonesbury? Oh dear. I then flick to the front of G2 while my tea is brewing and I munch my cornflakes whilst reading whatever takes my fancy. (Note to non Guardian readers. The G2 is a tabloid sized insert to the main paper. It contains little in the way of editorial and much in the way of entertainment. Ideal breakfast fodder.) G2 section finished (normally about the time I have finished my breakfast) I can retire to my armchair with my second cup of tea and the main paper.
And I don’t read that in serial fashion either. I skip about. I scan the pages for something I want to read first, then read that before scanning for something else. Doing so gives me a good feel for the main issues of the day. I’ll see the obvious front page article – get a paragraph or two under my belt, then flick through for further details in other articles before going back to read the main news in detail. On the way I will inevitably be exposed to advertising (none in the kindle version) and will see a wide range of pictorial editorial content (very little in the kindle). And I can fold the paper to match what I am looking at. And it doesn’t weigh much. And it has two crosswords, plus the soduko and more Steve Bell!
I’m sorry, but a newspaper is more than just the sum of its content. I think I’ll carry on wasting 20 quid a month. And throwing away the sport section unread. And my local newsagent will continue to benefit from both the sale of the paper itself and any incidental purchase I may make whilst I am there. They wouldn’t get that if I carried on with the kindle.