Sunday, February 02, 2014

Review: New York Times for the Kindle

There's no question that the Kindle is by far the best device for reading, especially long form reading. But the Kindle's New York Times is more expensive than buying the paper newspaper or subscribing to the website. At $20/month, it's $5 more than the web-only digital access subscription. But the price difference could be worth it if you end up reading more. The New York Times offered a one month long trial, so I picked it up, since I expected to cancel it within a month.

Reading on the Kindle is very different from the web-site. For one thing, there are no ads! There's absolutely no distraction whatsoever from the content. As a result, you sweep from one story to the next in record time, and what would take an hour to browse through on the paper version would take about 15 minutes. This is despite the interface on my basic Kindle being less than ideal: you have to use the directional pad to move from article to the next, and one section to the next. Woe unto you if you were to accidentally switch sections if you didn't intend to. You'd lose your place in the paper and then have to restart your browse.

One of the unexpected difficulties I ran into was that you can't directly share articles from the kindle to any of the social networks. All you can do is "clip the article", whereupon it would show up as a text file called "My Clippings" which you can read by attaching your Kindle to a computer via USB cable. So what this means is that I'd read the day's paper, clipping articles I found interesting, and then when I had time, I'd link my cable to the computer and then share those articles by searching on Google and clicking through. This is additional effort, but not necessarily a bad thing: it forced me to curate the New York Times articles I shared more carefully. On the other hand, I could easily see myself not doing it for a while and then accumulating a backlog of articles that's never shared. Given the time spent doing so, it also meant that my shares would be delayed by significant amounts of time, possibly days or weeks.

By far the biggest problem with the Kindle version, however, is that just like a delivered dead-tree paper, it's yesterday's news. The up to date web-site is more timely, and has more interesting news. The printed page also has some advantages. For instance, the page on FPS on Sunday's New York Times looks much better on the page than on the web, and never finds it to the Kindle version. You also don't get the Sunday review of books, which I discovered after the fact to be an actually useful addendum to the New York Times.

Whether you should get the Kindle version of the New York Times depends very much on your reading habits. I think that it could be worth the $5 premium simply because of how much better the Kindle version reads. Nevertheless, missing the photos, additional content, and having mostly yesterday's news would probably be a turn-off for most readers.

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