Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The News and the Kindle DX

I've been playing a few days with the Kindle DX, the new larger Kindle from Amazon especially designed for students and newspaper readers. No, I didn't buy one. I'm one of three faculty with a grant that purchased some to study whether the gizmos have a chance to help newspapers.

I like the thing.

I've been reading the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which is nice since the AJC quit distributing it's dead-tree version to the Athens market a few months ago.

We'll be handing the tablets to people with a subscription to the AJC to study how appealing real people find this way of reading the news. In fact I emailed three major players at the AJC to see if they'd like to participate -- given we're studying their newspaper and they might find the results kinda important -- and I didn't get a single response. Not even a "no thanks." And they wonder why they're struggling. Sheesh.

Now that I've nailed the navigation, I really kinda like it for reading the newspaper. Not as much as I like printed paper, but it's okay. Bad side: only one update a day. Good side: I really don't want to look at my Kindle all day long. And I've yet to read a book on one, so I can't say much about that experience.

Will the Kindle save newspapers? I'm guessing not, but for a small, select audience -- one that loves reading and perhaps travels and needs to take one slim piece of hardware rather than lug a bunch of paperbacks -- this has promise of at least helping, of creating a small revenue stream. The bad news for papers is Amazon often asks for 70 percent or more of the small subscription fee.

How does this fit with what people know? Obviously, any increase in news consumption is good, and for me the Kindle has made available a lot of state news I missed, mainly because I'm not so much a fan of reading a web site for news beyond a check for updates. No, the Kindle is for people who immerse themselves in the reading experience, which leads to far more knowledge about public affairs than mere exposure to television. But for the Kindle to succeed people will need to see that it is good not just for news (which won't be enough of a draw) but also for other stuff, like books and magazines and whatever else they can squeeze into the thing.

But yeah, I kinda like it. Then again, I didn't have to spent over $400 to play with it.

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