No dead trees

By February 3, 2012New Media

Since the beginning of the year I have been running an experiment to see if I can consume all my print media digitally. That means only buying Kindle books and getting my morning news fix exclusively on one of my tablets or my phone.

So far, with two caveats that I will return to, it has been going well.

Since around October I have been buying all new books in Kindle format and I love that I can read on my Kindle device at home and then open up the Kindle app on my phone and have it automatically take me to the last page I read. Before buying everything on Kindle I would generally have two books on the go at once, one at home and one in the office. Now I can read one book at a time without having to bring it around with me. I also like that when I have ten minutes to kill and don’t feel like doing email my book is always there to dive into. I’m playing less Angry Birds now 🙂

So no dead tree books is ok.

Turning to news, for some time now I’ve got all my tech and Chelsea football news via Taptu’s Android and iPad apps. Our Associate Scott Sage has curated a tech news feed and a VC blogs feed on Taptu and I check those first thing every morning, along with Taptu’s own Chelsea feed. If you see me tweeting out news early in the morning it is usually from the Taptu app. (Disclosure: Taptu is one of our portfolio companies.)

So the only major change I needed at the start of the year was to find an alternative to buying a physical copy of the Financial Times in the mornings. I looked at various online financial publications hoping to find an RSS feed or two that would give me the same blend of macro-economic news and analysis, reporting on quoted tech companies, and UK politics, but couldn’t find anything. I ended up installing the FT app on my phone and subscribing to their mobile service. At £39 per month it is quite expensive, and a little more than I think I was spending on the physical newspaper, but I’ve been using it for a month now and I think I’m getting reasonable value from it. A key requirement for me was that I could read the paper whilst I was on the Underground with no network connection and the FT app works brilliantly for that. If you leave the app running on your phone you can set it to automatically download all new content every morning whilst you are at home and the phone is on wifi. Access to all articles is then very fast, even when you are offline. My only gripe is that the scrolling on my Samsung Galaxy Nexus is a jerky (anyone from the FT reading this??)

So the no dead tree news is working ok too.

I said there are a couple of caveats/exceptions. The first is that I bought a physical book about stretching this week. I want to be able to refer to it whilst I exercise and I think the physical format is still much better for this. I don’t expect more than one or two of the thirty odd books I read each year will need to be physical though. The second caveat is that I was given a physical copy of The man who mistook his wife for a hat for Xmas, which I’ve read. And, finally, there are two books I haven’t bought solely because they aren’t available on Kindle. One is Abundance, which I hope will come out on Kindle soon, and the other was a productivity book my brother recommended which I probably won’t ever read now. I have plenty of books stacked up to read though, and neither of these are ‘can’t miss’ titles.

I list out these caveats and exceptions in full to illustrate that there has been very little downside to living without physical print media. Moreover, I expect the downsides there have been to get less over time. Stretching text books will move to tablet format, include videos, and be better for it, and increasingly all titles will be available on Kindle.

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  • I’ve noted the comment re jerky scrolling on the Nexus and will flag it as a bug to mobile dev guys. Thanks for the kind words re the app – glad you’re enjoying it. 

  • Thanks Rob

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  • Dave

    Nic, How do you think your electronic reading will influence your kids taking up reading if they no longer see you picking up “real” books? It’s generally thought that kids are more likely to read if they are surrounded by books and see their parents reading, but if you are reading on a tablet how can your kids judge that you are not addicted to FB and angry birds. 

    I guess also that if the whole family is there “reading” on their tablets then kids are likely to opt for fun gamified ebooks rather than proper books and they may never get into reading novels. I’m out of the loop on this as my kids are now teenagers and therefore didn’t grow up with iPads.

  • My seven year old is already addicted to novels (it’s amazing to see her plow through the same thousand Enid Blyton novels I read).
    I will keep an eye on the 5 year old, now that you mention it, but I doubt my format choices will impact him much because I do very little reading when he is awake.
    An interesting bigger question is whether linear text is the best way of telling stories. Interactive gamified approaches could be a richer and more compelling experience. A new art form even 😉
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  • Martin

    I made the same move when I upgraded to iPad II and haven’t looked back. The same issues aren’t evident on the iPad FT App but I suspect it will be some time before iBooks genuinely competes with the depth and breadth of Kindles titles.

    Interestingly, picking up on Daves point my 15 year old who as a small baby suffered Meningitis finds reading the iPad very difficult but devoures books at a quite astounding pace…..suggesting there’s life in trees yet!