The Kindle: Saving Your Eyes, Wallet, and the Environment

Thursday Dec 6th 2007 by Mike Elgan
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Amazon’s new electronic reader is easier on your eyes than a computer screen, and offers myriad information delivery advantages.

In a column called God Said The New York Times Is Dead, I wrote that the venerable newspaper had outlived its usefulness, and that the newspaper industry had become "a machine that converts forests into spam and pollution."

The newspaper medium and business model are obsolete, I wrote, but newspaper content -- and the people who create it -- are needed now more than ever. "What's an educated reader to do?," I asked, and answered my own question: "Cancel your newspaper subscriptions" but support newspapers by "visiting them regularly, subscribing if they have something to subscribe to, and patronizing their advertisers."

That was October 31. Just two and a half weeks later, on November 19, Amazon announced its Kindle e-Book reader

Amazon Kindle lets you buy electronic books from Amazon, and read them on the device. You can also subscribe to newspapers, magazines and blogs, browse the Internet and do other things via its free, unlimited broadband wireless connection.

The purpose of this column is to update my previous advice with this: If you want to save newspapers, cancel your print subscription, buy a Kindle and subscribe to one of the Kindle-delivered newspapers. The Kindle is the best thing that ever happened to the newspaper business.

Best of all, reading your newspaper on Kindle requires zero sacrifice.

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I've been using a Kindle now for a few days, and reading my subscription to The New York Times (Amazon currently offers the Times, plus 10 other newspapers). Reading a Kindle-based newspaper is superior -- far superior, actually -- to reading a paper newspaper.

So even if you don't care about saving the newspaper industry -- even if you hate the environment -- buy a Kindle anyway for purely selfish reasons. Here's why the Kindle is a better newspaper:

Better browsing Kindle newspaper articles are presented in four ways: "Articles List," "Sections List," "Front Page" and one article after the other. That last option is golden. The default option when you're looking at the first page of a newspaper article is "Next Article." So if you don't want to read it, just press the scroll wheel with your thumb. To read the article, press one of the "Next Page" bars on either side of the device. When you get to the last page of an article, the default selection, again, is "Next Article." So both browsing and reading is amazingly easy. The next article is always a single thumb-press away.

Better readability People prefer paper to LCD screens for reading. However, the Kindle screen is easier to read than paper. Unlike a computer display, which throws light at your eyeballs, the Kindle display is "passive" like paper -- the light is reflected from room light. Letters appear printed on the surface. It looks like a high-def Etch-a-Sketch. The brighter the light, the better it looks. Plus, type size is adjustable. The combination of amazing screen technology and resizable text makes Kindle better to read. You can read faster on Kindle than you can on paper.

Better comprehension Kindle has a built-in dictionary: The New Oxford American Dictionary. Just click on a line, and Kindle will show you definitions of each major word in that line. If you don't like that dictionary, you can buy another one in the Kindle store and replace it as the default. If you want to go further, look it up on the Wikipedia -- or Google or any other Web site. A Kindle-based service called Kindle NowNow will set actual humans in motion to answer your questions -- and it's free. Try doing that in a taxi with your print newspaper.

Better delivery Kindle delivers your paper earlier, more reliably and -- best of all -- to you, not your house. So if you're not at home, you get your paper just the same.

Better "recycling" The recycling of newspapers is an expensive, environmentally unfriendly process. No paper to recycle is better than recycling. Your Kindle newspaper just goes away by itself after seven days.

Better pricing Kindle newspapers are cheaper for you and more profitable for the newspaper company. Everybody wins.

Mike Elgan Columns
Why Everyone Should Use Google Calendar

Gubbing Things Done

How to Predict the Future

In Search of the Perfect Start Page

FREE Tech Newsletters

Better discoverability You can search the whole newspaper -- or all back issues of your newspapers -- for keywords. I searched for "Kindle" and got 13 hits in today's paper. It turns out the Times has an article today called, "'Real Books Are Great, Except In Your Luggage," about e-book readers.

Better experience Paper newspapers can be annoying. I hate getting ink on my fingers. The ads can be overwhelming. And I don't like "jumps," where the story is continued on another page buried deep inside another section. Print newspapers are too big to read in some places, such as in an economy class airline seat. The Kindle frees you from all these annoyances.

For my money ($400), the Kindle is worth the price of admission just for The New York Times alone. This is the vision of newspapers that futurists have been dreaming about for a century. What they didn't imagine, is that the newspaper would also give you access to thousands of books, the Internet and your own personal documents as well.

So if you love newspapers like I do, buy a Kindle. It's better for the newspapers, better for the environment, and way better for you.

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