I’ve become a bit of a Kindle convert of late. First Amazon added the ability to send documents to the Kindle app (it was previously just for “real” Kindles). Then, I discovered the highlighting and social sharing. More recently, after buying my wife a Kindle, I’ve been reading the newspaper.
I don’t normally read a daily paper – I might pick up one of the free papers (Metro or London Evening Standard) on the train to/from work and I’ll flick through the local rag (Milton Keynes Citizen) when it drops through the door but most of my news is consumed from the BBC (website, Radio 4, or the ten o’clock news). If we get a quiet weekend though, I do enjoy one of the weekend papers – Sunday Times for me (at least, until the “phone hacking” scandal uncovered so much evidence of wrong-doing at News International) or The Guardian on Saturday for my wife (if only it had a decent technology/motoring section).
So we decided to try The Guardian and Observer Kindle Edition, partly due to the existence of a free 14-day trial.
Unfortunately, once the trial is over, the cost for the Grauniad on Kindle in the UK is £9.99 a month, whilst it’s $9.99 in the United States. We’re used to US prices coming across with almost 1:1 parity over here but this is not a simple import duty/sales tax mark-up – it’s just plain wrong (remember, this is a UK newspaper). That leaves me feeling ripped off, and less likely to extend my occaisional 99p single issue purchase (which would just be 75c in the States) to a full month.
It’s not that I think £9.99 is a lot of money for a months’ worth of newspapers – actually, I think it’s fair, given that the cost of distributing electronically must be so much lower than in print but that newspapers still need to derive a revenue stream to avoid declining into the pit of dumbed-down celebrity trivia that threatens real journalism. My issue is that US consumers of The Guardian on Kindle pay so much less – perhaps as part of Guardian Media Group’s drive to gain a foothold in the United States?
So, back to the point, what’s it like reading the paper on a Kindle?
Actually, it’s rather good – all of the paper laid out by subsections with sensible navigation. If you’re reading on an E Ink device, then there may be limited value in some of the illustrations (remember the days of black and white newsprint?) but in the Kindle app on my iPad, I see the paper in glorious colour. I also like that the paper is there for me in the early hours so that when I leave home to catch the 06:52 to Euston it’s ready for me to read on the train.
Unfortunately though, there are some downsides. Despite being delivered in the Kindle app, the digital edition lacks highlighting and social sharing – so many times I’ve wanted to highlight something, tweet and link to the online version of an article… only to find that to do that I have to drop out to the website. And I can’t even bookmark articles to come back to and look up on the web later – surely that’s a missed opportunity for integration of online and offline content?
Perhaps The Guardian would rather that subscribers didn’t realise how good the website is? It seems that a lot of the tech news that hits me on the web via various Guardian Twitter aliases/podcasts is absent in the print edition and that, sometimes, the Guardian website might be a better place to spend some time than flicking through the paper… (but don’t get any ideas about paywalls – that’s why you never see me tweeting Times or Financial Times stories…).
My subscription to The Guardian Kindle Edition runs out on Friday and, sadly, I won’t be renewing. I may buy the odd copy on a weekend but, then again, I might buy a different paper instead (perhaps The New York Times, or The Telegraph?)… and the challenge for newspapers to find a new business model for the digital age continues.