I have pretty much always loved newspapers. When I was very young, I would lie on our living room floor and read the sports page in front of me. I read about the Twins more than anything. And I’m talking about the mid-70s Bombo Rivera, Lyman Bostock, Craig Cubbage Twins.
My first “job” was delivering the West Central Tribune. I started on the first day of school in fourth grade. Obviously it became what I did for a living for a long time. I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t get a newspaper delivered to where I was living. When I was traveling, I was the guy who would buy multiple newspapers at every stop just to see how different papers were doing things.
But now a couple of months into an experiment of not reading an actual hard-copy version of the newspaper. This past fall, I purchased a Nook Color, the nifty e-reader from Barnes & Noble. It’s really an e-reader plus, but I will get to that in a later post.
I initially started getting just the New York Times delivered daily to my Nook Color. It was, and is, great. One of the best things about my previous job in higher education was that I could pick up the NYT on campus for free. I find it to be a joy to read as there are always interesting stories. I would bring it to lunch, find a table by myself and read while eating lunch.
With the Nook Color, I get the benefit of getting a much later edition of the newspaper than the national edition — yes, there are actual sports scores in there — while also not being overwhelmed with unread sections of the paper piling up each day.
Starting around Christmas, I added the Star Tribune to my Nook subscription list. I wasn’t sure if I would be comfortable getting my primary newspaper electronically. But I figured that since it is available for reading at work as well that I would give it a chance.
The bottom line is that I really like it. I usually get through the main things I want to see in the Star Tribune before I leave the house or right when I get to the office. I mix in some of the NYT in the morning and look at more of it at lunch. There are some days when I don’t get to as much of that as I would like.
Here’s a quick look at pros and cons (and some photos) of my move toward a paper-free life.
Ease of use:
This one is pretty big for me. When I turn on my Nook Color in the morning, the two papers have either already downloaded or they download seconds after firing it up. From the time the download begins, I can be reading in seriously 10-15 seconds. It’s a snap. I don’t have to open the door on a cold morning. I don’t have fetch my paper out of a snowbank (which happened a few times this winter). And the electronic version doesn’t get wet. There were a few times this winter when the NYT didn’t download without forcing an update, but that appears to be better of late.
Cost/value: I’m not exactly sure what the print version of the NYT is right now, but it is much more than the $20/month I’m paying. I will admit that I don’t always read every word of every section of the NYT, but I read quite a bit. I’m paying $10/month for the Star Tribune. That’s a total of $30 or about $1 per day. Do I get that much value out of it? Absolutely. If you don’t want to subscribe, you can also buy single copy editions. The Sunday papers are a great deal as you only pay the regular weekday price. I basically feel that I get the NYT for very little each month considering what I save on getting my Star Tribune electronically. The Nook Color hardware, by the way, is $249.
Why not just the web?: I know a lot of people have totally pulled the plug on paying for newspaper content. It is a lot of the reason why the newspaper business has turned on its ear over the past five years. I personally don’t really like reading on the web. My biggest reason is simply because it is difficult to use. Part of the beauty of a newspaper is that there are many people (many of whom are smart) who decide where stories go in the newspapers. The biggest or most important or most interesting stories go on the front page or on section covers. There is order, there is a hierarchy. There isn’t enough of that structure on the web. Too frequently stories get good play because there is video or it is new or it is a talker or there’s a snappy headline. I don’t want new because I can get that from Twitter. I want to know what is important and I’m willing to pay for that. Plus, I don’t believe that content should be free. I believe that there is value in newspapers and I am cool with supporting them.
A perfect complement: Part of my desire to get the NYT in addition to the Star Tribune is that it makes my sports knowledge a little more complete. I do still read the sports section before anything else. And in an era of newspaper cutbacks, my local paper doesn’t give me everything that I want. I want to read about things like the PGA Tour (especially PGA Tour stories that don’t have anything to do with Tiger Woods), I want broad, big picture stories, I want national stories. I get more of that in the NYT. So I get my local sports news, but I get other stuff as well. For example, there’s no question in my mind that I will be able to read at least a few paragraphs about the Champions League soccer matches played today in the NYT. And on many days, there’s a story I wasn’t expecting.
What is missing?: The biggest thing I would love to see as an option is a better ability to share content. A friend of mine with an iPad has subscribed to The Daily. He’s been able to post real web links onto Facebook for sure (and I’m guessing Twitter as well). If I want to share something from one of those papers, I have to go to the website, find the story and go from there. It’s a small complaint, but it would make the experience better from my perspective.
The coolest feature: The best thing about the NYT on the Nook Color is the most e-mailed section. At the end is a section of stories — some of which may be few days old — that have gotten a lot of email action on the web. It is a great place to catch up when I miss a day or don’t get through as much.
What don’t you get?: Well, you don’t get dirty fingers. There are no ads or inserts which is a good thing. In terms of content, you don’t get comics or puzzles, sports box scores or standings tables. I don’t miss any of that stuff. The one thing you don’t always get are charts that go with stories. That can be a little bit of a bummer, but it’s a small price to pay.
Will it stick?: I think so for now. I like not having to haul that many papers to the curb for recycling. I really like not having to deal with the collection of plastic bags. I like that if I don’t get to the paper on day, I don’t really feel guilty about killing trees. I also don’t miss ads. I just get straight content with less clutter. There are about 30 papers currently available on the Nook Color. I’ve largely stuck to the NYT and Star Tribune, but have purchased single copies of a couple of others. The format is pretty much the same.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I am a fan.