Kindle newspapers: How the experience needs to improve

There’s something great about subscribing to a newspaper on a dedicated e-reader for automatic daily delivery. Goodbye, wet rolls of paper on the lawn. I love to read the New York Times at all hours on my Kindle Paperwhite.

But the overall newspaper experience on Amazon’s Kindle is in need of a major upgrade. Lately I’ve been struck (and frustrated) by three specific limitations. Here they are, presented in the spirit of feature requests.

nytkindleThere’s no true “all-access” digital newspaper subscription.

If I’m subscribing to the New York Times on Kindle, for example, I should really get access to the content through the NYT’s tablet and smartphone apps, as well. But that’s not the way it works.

The $20/month Kindle subscription gives users access to NYTimes.com but not to the paper’s iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, PC or tablet apps. The NYT’s “All Digital Access” pass (which works out to around $38/month) includes the apps but not the e-reader subscription. This is also the case with Barnes & Noble’s Nook.

Why can’t this be unified and simplified?

“The simple answer is that Kindle subscriptions are billed exclusively through Amazon,” said NYT spokesperson Eileen Murphy via email. “In order for subscribers to be able to purchase ‘all digital access’ we would need to bill through the New York Times.”

Sharing is broken.

Click on the link in the tweet below to see what happens when you try to share a specific New York Times story via the built-in Kindle sharing function.

It’s nice that I was able to quote from the article by selecting the text on my Kindle before sharing the item. But obviously the link should send people to the actual online version of the newspaper article, not to a dead-end page on Amazon’s website.

I’m sure this is a technical challenge, matching up the newspaper’s web database with the separate Kindle content, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. The inability to share content in this way is really too bad.

Content is still too limited. 

It’s probably too much to expect the Kindle versions of newspapers to include every last feature from the print or web editions, but the gap is way too big. Licensing considerations no doubt come into play, but it would improve the experience significantly to have access to box scores, comics, and other newspaper staples.

In fact, the feature gap is actually getting worse as newspapers put more content into blog posts that may or may not make it into the Kindle edition in some form. In our region, the Seattle Times is a good example of this.

In a column on GeekWire over the holiday, Frank Catalano cited the expansion of newspapers to e-readers as an example of the industry evolving in line with journalism insiders’ predictions from two decades ago. That’s true. But some innovation (or at least attention) is desperately needed to truly bring the experience into the digital age.