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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Getting the paper via Kindle

Posted By on Tue, Sep 1, 2009 at 7:17 PM


New Orleans resident Wayne Curtis is spending the summer in remote Maine, in the land of the dial-up modem and a place where newspaper carriers do not venture. So he's now spending $13.95 a month for the privilege of having The New York Times delivered wirelessly, via Kindle, and he's written a wry and funny essay about the experience for the Web site The Smart Set:

Now, every morning, the daily New York Times — or most of it, sans crossword, quote of the day, most photographs, and the occasional article — appears on a thin, white plastic device I keep on the windowsill. The Kindle is about the size and thickness of an instruction manual for a rice cooker, yet it delivers my Times every day quietly and without complaint. With coffee in hand, I now read the day’s news every morning sitting in a rocker on the porch, or down by the lake in an Adirondack chair.

But Curtis is not sold, entirely:

Still, my chief qualm is that there’s something offputtingly utilitarian and perhaps too efficient about the Kindle. Marshall McLuhan, or somebody like Marshall McLuhan, once said that you don’t actually read the morning paper, you slip into it like a bath. That about nails it. But reading the Times on the Kindle feels nothing like taking a bath. It’s more like getting a news douche.

I don’t believe news should be quite so efficient. There’s something deeply pleasing about the slouchy, tactile immersion of reading printed news. I imagine an eight-year-old walking into a cathedral in the 18th century and deciding to join the clergy, or through the Corinthian columns into a grand downtown bank in the 19th and becoming a banker. I’m pretty sure Sundays at Gold’s, wandering through the canyons of newsprint, made me decide to be a writer, smitten as I was by the sheer physical monumentality of the news.

Will anyone growing up getting news through a Kindle — or some other reading appliance — have a clue about the great cathedrals of information we once inhabited? I doubt it. And that makes me a little sad.

I have the free version of Kindle on my phone, but can't imagine reading an entire novel on a cellphone screen. But a full-sized Kindle with the regular layout of a newspaper on it, a newspaper that arrives silently and doesn't need to be recycled -- that might be different.

Are you a Kindle person? Do you like it?

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