A Geek's Problem

Okay, so here’s the deal: when Amazon’s Kindle 2 came out, I went ahead and splurged on it, seeing the potential for reading newspapers and magazines anywhere I wanted to and avoiding a slowly growing stack of periodicals that I wish I could get rid of but keep for some reason.

An electronic version that eliminates that problem? Didn’t hesitate for a second, so I bought the Kindle 2 (and later its larger brother, the Kindle DX) and greedily signed up for half a dozen magazines and newspapers, taking advantage of Amazon’s free trial period. In the end, I settled on a select group of newspapers that I could have offline and didn’t need to fire up the computer to read when I didn’t feel like it.

But here’s the rub: I also have most of the same newspapers as apps on my iPhone, a device that is pretty much always with me, more so than my Kindle, and I find myself reading the news on it with increasing regularity. Oh, and they’re all free.

So, here’s a problem that only a geek could have: why do I continue to pay for periodicals on my Kindle (that isn’t in color) when I have them on my iPhone for no cost? Isn’t this exactly the problem that the news industry is claiming that is killing it? Throw on top of it that I am drooling over the prospect of an Apple tablet computer that will, for all intents and purposes, probably act like a large iPhone that I would love to use whilst on the couch and you can see that continuing to pay for a Kindle newspaper/magazine subscription is looking like a losing proposition.

Now, in recent news, Rupert Murdoch made a lot of noise spoon-clanging that his news outlets would start charging for content. Indeed, my Wall Street Journal application informs me that I need to subscribe now if I want to keep using it. And the thing is, I do want to keep using it except I had a subscription of it on my Kindle. (This begs the question: will I be forced to pay twice to access the same thing? And how much is actually the same thing, if you consider that an iPhone version of a newspaper/magazine is not identical to the Kindle which is different from the online and actual tree version?)

While I really do like the Kindle, I have to admit that I enjoy using my iPhone to read news more, and I look forward to extending that experience when Apple starts selling its tablet. (And if they don’t, I will build a robot to destroy One Infinite Loop.) This means that my Kindle will start to become unused more and more, but what do I do about subscriptions? To me, it’s absolutely inevitable that news organizations are going to start charging for access; Rupert Murdoch is merely doing what all print publications are thinking, though probably with far less panache.

Believe it or not, this is all kind of exciting because we’re approaching the convergence point when news organizations are going to get their act together and we’ll be able to access the news wherever we want without multiple versions of stuff. But since we’re not there yet, all options are on the table. As much as I like my Kindle, I suspect that it will become a secondary reading device, used out of a sense of guilt more than a desire to enjoy reading on it. But of course, all this could change because geeks tend to fixate on devices they insist need to Be Everything: this is why every potential device is suffixed with the adjective “killer” as though the point of all electronic devices is to be the Holy Grail. Puh-leeze. An Apple tablet may not be the creature I believe it to be, and maybe one subscription to a newspaper (like the WSJ) may cover multiple devices with seamless synchronization. Or not.

Whatever the case, what the hell do I do right now with my Kindle newspaper subscriptions?