Armen Chakmakjian

On the iPad = Horus, Kindle = Osiris and my evaluation of Newspapers on these devices…

In iPad, Kindle, Literature, technology, web 2.0 on April 2, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Good Friday and the messianic death and resurrection weren’t good metaphors for this event.  However, another tradition provides something more applicable: Osiris’s murder by Set and trip through the down the Nile in a the wooden sarcophagus and the scattering of his remains and then his supposed return in the form of Horus as a metaphor for my Kindle as the iPad makes its way from China to my home tomorrow.  How’s that?

So every couple of hours, I’m checking the UPS site to see where the iPad is.  Last I checked it was in Anchorage.  I’ve purchased the iPad for work because I think it’s going to be a game changer for the product I work on, QuickBase.  However, that’s a different story.

This morning I was reading today’s issue of my 2 week complimentary subscription to the New York Times on the Kindle and I did feel something wasn’t right…and it wasn’t going to be solved by the iPad.  It has to do with newspapers.  I was a long-time reader of the Wall Street Journal in paper form.  I’d buy it in the train station.  Back then, it was 6 columns.  Fold the broadsheet in half and 3 columns were available to you.  It was much more manageable than a tabloid since the took advantage of the length of the page to make the paper thinner overall.

I read relatively fast.  Probably between 600-1000 words per minute when I’m not skimming.  In paperback book terms that’s about 1-2 pages a minute.  On the 6″ kindle 2, using the smallest available font, that’s about the same.  When reading a book, keeping at that pace, a 200 page book takes me about 2-3 hours if I have that long uninterrupted by people or nature.  That kind of reading though is different than how I read newspapers.

The reading methodology I used on the WSJ, for example, was scan and drill.  Scan the whole article, title and text, and if it caught me, start from the top and really read it.  That meant that on the red line train from Alewife station to Downtown Crossing (to switch to the orange line) I’d have scanned the whole newspaper and read a several articles in-depth.  I could do something similar with the Boston Globe or the NYT on those days that I ended up with a copy, but their column layout was 1 3 5 6 depending on section and which part of the page you were on (more trouble some if sections were combined on a page) meaning that I had to do jiu-jitsu with the folding to have it do the same as the WSJ.

So back to the iPad and the Kindle.  I’ve tried the FT, the Economist and now the NYT on my Kindle II.  I really enjoyed the FT but even though I like reading it, I finally figured out what I don’t like about reading a newspaper on my Kindle.   I can’t do the scan and drill.  Sorry WSJ and NYT’s websites, browsing a homepage of a newspaper is not the same a newspaper scan and drill. Browsing assumes the action of clicking to uncover the information. and the 16×9 screen doesn’t allow me to scan a long article before deciding to read it easily.   This is why I’ve never liked reading news on the web.   The depth of the material and the format were all wrong.

On the kindle, I have a different problem with the newspapers.  The “section list” that all the publications use tells me what the organization of the newspaper is and how many articles are in each section but it affords me neither the preview/mouseover of a webpage (giving me the first few sentences of an article or an abstract) nor does it allow me to scan and drill like a broadsheet newspaper.  Rather than the annoying click and uncover of a web page, I must use the toggle to travel to the first page (kindle page…like a book chapter) and move on but if I want to scan the article I have to hit next page next page next page…its just isn’t the same.

People who did not read newspapers or even glossy magazines like Time and Newsweek in their heyday do not understand this. This is the primordial hunting thing.  Scanning the horizon to see the layout, then focusing on a topic.  Hunters did not browse, they scanned.  And I do not think that the iPad will solve this.  It will solve many other couch potato things that a laptop cannot, but knowing that an iPad is a glorified iPod Touch married with the form factor of a big Kindle, it still is not 23 inches from top to bottom like a broadsheet.  It will be a new metaphor, but it will not be a 1 for 1 replacement for newspapers.    I’ll gush over it immediately but then when the reality distortion zone wears off I’ll be left with 2 devices which allow me to browse my news but not scan and drill.

Just checked…its still says Alaska 🙂

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  1. […] On the iPad = Horus, Kindle = Osiris and my evaluation of Newspapers on these devices… April 2010 4 […]

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