Once upon a time, as Edwardian plays, British costume dramas and distant collective memories tell us, the morning newspaper, usually The Times (of London) was ironed by the butler and then delivered on a silver platter to the man of the house, the head of the family, some portly, ennobled, gentleman with a lot of facial hair and a tight collar who would read it, snorting his disapproval at any article that hinted at modern ways, new inventions and, worst of all, anything that might change his entrenched habits. This was usually accompanied by the crunch of toast, lightly buttered and spread with marmalade.
These days, the paper, once known as The Thunderer, first published in 1785 as the Daily Universal Register before its first radical change, in 1788, when it became known simply as The Times. I’m sorry to disappoint all those other newspapers like the splendid New York Times (1851) or the evocatively named The Times Of India (1845) but The Times, no matter what any other paper proclaims, was the first with that name and therefore is entitled to be knows as, simply, The Times.
Now, of course, it has changed and changed again. It is, that Edwardian gentleman has already started to splutter, now owned by a less than pleasant Australian called Rupert and it has shrunk its pages down to a handy to handle but tabloid size. It has coloured photographs and, horror of horrors, unlike the traditional journal, articles on the front page instead of those densely printed announcements.
I try not to splutter over controversial news stories but I do read The Times over breakfast and I do usually consume some toast and marmalade whilst I do it. I have come to accept the inevitable, and, after-all, an historical truth, that newspaper proprietors are not saintly fellows and many of them were probably at least nearly as unpleasant as Rupert Murdoch, so I ignore his presence behind the scenes and continue to read his newspaper.
Today, though I hear the ghosts of Edwardian splutterers because I have taken out a two week trial subscription to The Times on my wonderful Kindle reading machine and this morning I compared it with my printed copy of the same edition.
My Edwardian ancestors, after the initial shock, might even have approved. It is certainly free from colour photographs and, in fact, has very few illustrations and when there are photographs they are in a tasteful black and white. The Kindle version of The Times reminds me of those 18th and 19th Century editions which lingered on well into the 20th Century where the words are preeminent. I think I am going to love it.
There are so many advantages with the new system.
It arrives electronically every morning, not crumpled on the doormate with wet pages on a rainy day, or absent altogether because the newspaper boy has ‘flu; it doesn’t need ironing so the butler can get on with more useful early morning duties like polishing the silver; it can be read outside on a windy day out in the garden when you are having breakfast alfresco or on the train or the London underground (the subway) without forcing the reader into the next passenger’s body space and you can even get it delivered when you are away on holiday in remote island kingdoms or on a business trip to Iceland or worse. It is also considerably cheaper than the one made from pulped trees.
Instead of having to take a shopping bag full of old newspapers every week to the paper recycling point here in my home town of Lewes as I do every week along with another bag full of, er, bottles, I simply press the delete button and yesterday’s news is history.
The only disadvantages are if you want to do some creative papier maché sculpture or to pack up the china before moving house or, let’s not forget, if you are house-training a puppy dog. Mostly though, old newspapers turn into dust-collecting clutter.
I am already been reading The New York Times this way and enjoying it a lot – why don’t we Brits realize that it might be the best paper in the World? – so I will probably continue my progress towards being paper-free. I will still have toast for breakfast, of course, still with marmalade too and it is also perfectly easy to splutter over your Kindle – it has a convenient wipe-free surface. So this change, like most great changes, is really no change at all.
Meanwhile, I’m getting into gear for the imminent publication (in October) of my novel, Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love, the story of a young fogey living in Brighton in 1967 who has a lot to learn when the flowering hippie counter culture changes him and the world around him.
You can already pre-order the book from the publishers, Ward Wood Publishing:
…or from Book Depository:
…or from Amazon: