Is it my imagination or are less people reading a newspaper on my train into Waterloo from Strawberry Hill, and the number huddled over Kindles going up? If it’s not my imagination – and I’m pretty sure it’s not, even at seven o’clock in the morning – does this mean that news consumption is diminishing while novel reading is on the up for commuters, or are more people choosing to read “the paper” electronically?
I’m not really sure, but my gut feel is that it is a combination of the two. I’ve written in the past about my concerns over regional media going digital (see “Digital blandscape: the demise of the local newspaper”), but have also confessed to being a fan of The Times on Kindle. And the more I’ve read The Times this way, the more I’ve started to think about my “print” media intake. Am I reading more or less with a Kindle version of The Times, missing vital bits of news or managing to take more in, or perhaps not getting the full experience because of the lack of pictures and the fact that those featured are in black and white?
After comparing the paper and Kindle version of The Times, I’m convinced that I’m consuming far more news in my 35 minute journey than I ever did when I read the “old fashioned” version. The easy layout and navigation provided by the Kindle allows me to find not only the key stories, but also the ones that are most pertinent, very easily. A quick glance at the modular style and I’ve taken in the top stories and know which ones to delve into.
It no longer feels that stories are hidden on a page. I also like the way that when you click into a story you can quickly check the first paragraph and then move on if you’re not interested. For some reason I feel less guilty about doing this than not reading the whole story in the traditional Times before moving on.
You may think this means that I’m skim reading and missing out. I would argue, that it helps me identify the stories that are most important to me more quickly and have more time to read, digest and learn from them. Kindle, after all doesn’t throw all the newspaper rules out of the window. “Front Page”, “Sport” and “Business” for example, lead with the same story as the paper, but often feature more articles which can be taken in at a single glance without having to turn to page two. In essence, it’s easier to take a glance and then quickly drill down into the stories. You’re being more efficient with your time.
The lack of advertisements and even photographs appears to speed up my news consumption, taking the clutter away. You really are confronted with just the news and this truly highlights the importance of the headline. It has to work!
There are, however, some downsides. When a graphic is used to help explain a complex story, looking at it is not the greatest experience on my Kindle. And as far as sport is concerned the cricket scores and the racing tips somehow don’t look right.
But to me, the advantages outweigh any disadvantages. Even from a practical point of view, on the train I’m not digging people in the ribs turning pages, nobody is trying to read the paper over my shoulder – which is so annoying, the monthly subscription is cheaper than buying the paper each day, you don’t get ink on your fingers and I’m not looking for a rubbish bin in Waterloo station.
I appreciate that for an ex-traditional print journalist these views are probably heresy – but times change and I always smile when I turn on my Kindle and see the screen with an image of some hot type, pen and ink, newspapers or other more “old fashioned” ways of communicating on it.
Mind you….the weekend versions are still better in the traditional format. Now there’s a challenge for The Times and Kindle.