McSweeney’s and The Best Newspaper E-Reader

John Flowers, from the enjoyably satirical McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, shares that after weeks of extensive testing, the Newspaper is in fact the best news e-reader.

On e-ink vs. uh, just-ink:

“One drawback to The Newspaper display was that it used a much older version of the e-ink employed in some other e-reader displays. As a result, our hands became dirty and a bit oily after just a few minutes of use.”

On connecting to Wi-Fi vs. connecting to the real world:

“What concerned us most about The Newspaper was its lack of Wi-Fi. Information on the system was locked, while on other e-readers it was open, ubiquitous and current. Eventually, however, we found this advantage to be overstated, even misleading. Engineers using The Newspaper typically did so 30 to 60 minutes a day. Afterward, they went outside, formed relationships, and took in what life had to offer. Those using Wi-Fi-enabled e-readers tended to stay on the couch, scanning video sites for cats; eventually, downloading recipes for artichoke cheese dip they’ll never use.”

On the all-important question of, “I wonder if there’s an app for that”:

“The Newspaper also has a great number of apps already downloaded onto the device, ones we have yet to see on any other e-reader. There are the previously mentioned fly-swatting, hat-making, present-wrapping, and tailing people apps. But also the “same ol’ bullshit”, “who’s got the sports section?” and “packing material for my eBay business” apps.”

So there you have it, print-based versatility humorously trumps digital-tech coolness. And, according to Cory Doctorow, you can also turn your print-and-paper version of the newspaper into a weapon. (I’d never heard of a Millwall brick before. Thanks, English football hooligans).

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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

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