Usually when I read a long article, I’ll say something like, “Free up 20 minutes so you can read the whole thing.” I’m not sure I’m going to say that today, having just finished an article in the New Yorker, which is usually good for a profile or two, about the Kindle. And it’s not because the article is down on the Kindle—I don’t own any Amazon stock, so I don’t care if Kindle sinks or swims—but because it doesn’t really say anything that you probably didn’t already know.
What does the article do? Well, there’s a written unboxing of the Kindle, which contrives to be less exciting than it sounds. (Disclosure: I’ve always maintained that “unboxing” is silly.) There’s a quick little E Ink backstory. There’s all sorts of asides that snicker in the Kindle’s direction. [“I’d entered some nesting Italo Calvino folktale world of packaging. (Calvino’s Italian folktales aren’t yet available at the Kindle Store, by the way.)”] There’s the part where people say the generation one Kindle is “fugly,” which, I’ll have you know, automatically invalidates your opinion. (Friends don’t let friends make up words!)
It’s largely a collection of complaints à la Andy Rooney.
This is what it’s like to read the New York Times on the Kindle DX:
It’s enjoyable if you like reading Nexis printouts. The Kindle Times ($13.99 per month) lacks most of the print edition’s superb photography—and its subheads and call-outs and teasers, its spinnakered typographical elegance and variety, its browsableness, its Web-site links, its listed names of contributing reporters, and almost all captioned pie charts, diagrams, weather maps, crossword puzzles, summary sports scores, financial data, and, of course, ads, for jewels, for swimsuits, for vacationlands, and for recently bailed-out investment firms. A century and a half of evolved beauty and informational expressiveness is all but entirely rinsed away in this digital reductio.
And here’s the kicker:
The Kindle DX ($489) doesn’t save newspapers; it diminishes and undercuts them—it kills their joy. It turns them into earnest but dispensable blogs.
Never would I recommend the Kindle, in any of its incarnations, to someone who reads, I don’t know, photography books. That’s daft. Who wants to look at photos on a rubbish monochrome screen? Not I. Reading biographies, reading histories—words, no photos required—you don’t run into those problems. And that’s all I read, so there.
Oh, and you can buy a Kindle edition of the New Yorker. There goes that account!