This morning on the F train, I did a little urban anthropology which included a quantitative analysis of commuter reading material. Conclusions: Invest in iPhones. Dump your Kindle stock. Paid print content is terminally ill.
From Smith-9th Street to Broadway-Lafayette, I roamed the car, peeking invasively at the front covers and front pages of dour men and women as they wearily went to work.
Mass transit provides captive audiences for people who sell words. Let's see what New York's teeming hordes of commuters are killing time with:
One man sitting was working his way through Sunday's New York Times (he totally looked like a weekender and was reading that unreadable article about "games artists play"). Four others read today's Times. Only one man—suited and well-suited for his paper—was reading the WSJ. He got up for an older lady. There were two Post readers, though one of these people put their newspaper in her handbag after a brief glance. There was also, in the corner, a Daily News reader. Conclusion: WSJ readers are gallant. Times is still the paper of record.
One woman was reading Comfort Me Apples by Ruth Reichl. One man was reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. A guy in a suit and with a shoulder bag was immersed in Public Information Technology and E-Governance by G. David Garson. A man by the doors was ostentatiously reading City of Thieves by David Benioff. A girl seated was a few pages from the end of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. An indie looking girl was just beginning Flying Changes by Sarah Gruen.
Conclusion: Most people read for pleasure. At least one respondent was likely reading for professional reasons.
Five well groomed men and women were reading the New Yorker. Though three entered at the same stop at through the same door, they soon dispersed, like magnets of the same charge, to be equidistant and as far apart as possible. One woman read Print magazine.
Conclusion: New Yorker readers are well-kept but self-loathing. Print magazine has at least one reader.
One long haired techie type was reading the B+H catalogue. A Hispanic lady was reading a pamphlet of Psalms that was tucked inside her day planner.
Conclusion: Jesus and Jews selling audio equipment can be sustaining forces in this long and thankless sludge through life.
The big winner here is iPhones, with 7 people peering into the little tiny private screen, either typing (mostly overground) or generally peering (what's inside of there, little angel gadget?). There was a guy i a yarmulke typing on his blackberry and a teenager with tight curls and gold hoop earings listening to music and playing a game on her Sidekick.
Conclusion: Even though reading on an iPhone is uncomfortable, people still do it. In the chart above, Excel's wonky math concluded that nine gadget readers is a bigger share than nine paid newspaper readers. We agree!