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Updated: An Ideal Magazine for the Kindle
on 22 November 2010
Update - 14th May 2015 - Today I cancelled my subscription to The Spectator on the Kindle. Not because I didn't still read it every Thursday, or that it was no longer good value compared to the cost of the print/on-line version (that I have now swapped to for reasons that will become clear). I cancelled subscription because I was frustrated at the number of articles that seemed to be missing from the Kindle version. This week it was Rod Liddle's column; on other weeks it have been different columnists or sometimes entire features. Add in the fact that you never get any of the occasional supplements (e.g. Life) that the Spectator produces and suddenly the value and convenience of the Kindle version has, for me, become outweighed by the substandard content.
That is why I have added this update to my original review, and why I have knocked a star of my rating. My original observations below still stand. In fact, having reread the review I would add the fact that the formatting issues I identified are pretty much a thing of the past now and if you read the Kindle version on a tablet or phone app you now get much of the artwork that was previously missing back in 2010, so it is an improved product in many ways.
However, if you're thinking of picking up the Spectator through your Kindle you should be aware before subscribing that what you will be receiving may be a substandard product compared to the print and on-line versions and a Kindle subscription doesn't give you access to any missing articles through the Spectator website either (that requires a direct subscription via the magazine.
Original Review - November 2010 - Face it, in its current form the Kindle is never going to be a great platform for reading most magazines. You certainly wouldn't dream of reading any publication where one of the main selling points is its photographic content. I can't see Vogue, Hello, National Geographic or Homes & Gardens ever taking off on device which can only offer black and white, e-ink facsimiles of photographs. Even publications that are less reliant on imagery are going to be a hard sell on the Kindle. One of the pleasures of picking up most magazines is the combination of words and pictures; in fact the content of many magazines simply wouldn't pass muster without the images that accompany the text.
There are however, a few exceptions to this rule and The Spectator is one of them. If any magazine came ready made to be read on the Kindle then its 'The Speccy'. Beyond a handful of cartoons and the odd image of an artwork, the only pictures in the print version of the magazine are found in advertisments. Since the latter are omitted from the Kindle version very little is lost in the conversion from printed page to e-ink.
The articles, as they're never intended to rely on the support of images or graphics and which are unchanged from the print version, lose none of their impact on the Kindle. The straightfoward layout of the printed magazine (i.e. articles following each other consecutively with very few breaks or sidebars) also lends itself to easy conversion to the Kindle.
There is the odd niggle about formatting. 'Spectator Notes' and the 'Diary' for example, could both do with the insertion of blank lines to delineate between sections. On the whole however, each edition (and I've subscribed for nearly two months now) scans smoothly once you get used to some slight rejigging in the running order of articles compared to the printed version.
Some readers may miss the cartoons. Personally I always found them to be a mixed bag and I'm not that sorry to see them left out, but equally I can't see why they have neen omitted. As they're nearly all small, pen and ink and black and white efforts they should translate easily to e-ink. There may be copywrite issues at work but whatever the reason its a bit of poor showing to leave them out entirely.
If you're not a fan of politics, finance or reasonably high-brow arts coverage then The Spectator, whether printed or electronic, will probably not appeal. The same applies if you're not keen on reading content predominantly written from a right of centre perspective. If however, you want some thoughtful writing on UK politics, society and the arts and you want it delivered to you weekly where ever you are in the world then The Spectator on the Kindle pretty much ticks every box. At £ 2.99 per month, advert free, its pretty decent value too.