Kindle DX vs. Wall Street Journal: Does page layout matter?

Browsing a newspaper on an Amazon Kindle DX has a lot of advantages over doing it for real. Riding the subway into Manhattan this morning, I managed to get through a dozen articles in the Wall Street Journal without flipping a single page. But as I stumbled upon a piece on Chinese drywall while clicking around the Personal Journal section, it dawned on me that this is the kind of article I probably wouldn't even notice in the print edition.

Why? Simple: Page layout. The design of the page — including position, headline size, and the number of columns — would have subtly encouraged me to read other articles before that one, or possibly skip it altogether. Curious, I picked up a hard copy of the Journal to confirm if the paper's diligent copy editors working late last night agreed with me that Chinese drywall was, well, rather dry. And there it was, stuck on the bottom of page 2 with a fairly small headline.

Of course, those visual cues are lost on the Kindle's screen; the drywall story is the top story on page 2 of the PJ section on the DX. Stories are typically ordered first to last in a section, with few hints as to their relative importance. Sure, the ones up top are on the front page of that section, but beyond that all articles are created equal in the Kindleverse.

Does this matter? Do the benefits of a gadget that does away with paper, delivery, and all the hassle and expense that go with them outweigh the tradeoff in graphic design? And what can the next generation of e-readers do to improve in this area? Browse the photos beyond the Continue jump that compare the paper journal with the DX's section lists, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Click on the thumbnails to see the pics enlarged.

Front Page
Inside Marketplace section
Personal Journal front page
Page 4-5 of Marketplace section
Size comparison