Going Paperless

When my Time magazine renewal came in recently I decided not to renew.  I had been paying about $29 a year and now it was $49, and I thought that too much.  Then on Saturday I saw the new issue at my favorite bookstore and wanted to read it, but I passed on it thinking I’d need to learn to do without.  Later that evening I had a V-8 moment where I imagined hitting my head.  Hell, I have a Kindle and I can get Time from the Kindle store, I thought.  It turns out subscribing to the Kindle version of Time is only $1.49 a month or about $18 a year.

Flipping on my Kindle I zoomed over to their store and subscribed and instantly saw a download completed message.  A couple clicks later I was reading the article I saw at the bookstore about George Clooney being the last Hollywood star. 

Then it occurred to me that I should check Time’s web site, and I’ll be damn if the whole article wasn’t there for free.  Not only was the read for free it also included a video segment of George Clooney going into the writer’s crawl space looking for source of an alarm that had gone off unexpectedly.  Seeing the video of a fancy movie star at the writer’s modest house for dinner doing ordinary things really did accent the piece.  I could have had all of this for free.

The trouble is reading Time online isn’t exactly pleasurable, and reading the Kindle is, so I’m happy to pay for my Kindle copy.  However, this experience reminded me of an article in the latest issue of Wired (hard copy $12 a year) called “Free! Why $0.00 is the Future of Business” – which I now link so you can read for free.  Once again I wished I had this article on my Kindle.  The Kindle is actually as near perfect for my eyes as I can imagine anything formatted for reading.  Among all the little buttons at the bottom of online reading material I now wish there was a “Send to Kindle” button.  It would be worth the dime Amazon charges for receiving such stuff.

We are really very close to having a paperless society that pundits have talked about every since I can remember.  People always exclaim they hate reading off the computer screen even though they spend hours a day doing so.  Now the Kindle offers a better way to read, even better than paper, and that starts to suggest going paperless is possible.

By the way, I kid you not when I say I prefer to read the Kindle over paper.  If my paper material was formatted like the Kindle, paper would be fine, but modern layout artists format magazines for people with 20-15 vision.  The typeface on the Kindle is sharp, large and the scan line is just a few inches across – very easy on the eyes.

I subscribe to a lot of magazines, most of which I only read a tiny fraction of each issue.  All those trees cut down and processed with tons of water, power and dangerous chemicals so I can just flip through and read a few tidbits here and there.  Now that’s wasteful.  I’ve been feeling guilty for years, but with global warming I really feel terrible about such waste.  I’ve decided it’s time to go paperless.  Besides that I’m tired of carrying so much paper out to the curb for recycling.

I canceled the paper over the protest of my wife – we finally compromised and get just the Sunday edition, but I’m aiming to eliminate that too eventually.  I hate to see newspapers lose business and carriers lose jobs, but we recycle pounds of newspaper after only reading ounces of pages.  That’s just too wasteful.  Now I’m on to finding new ways to read my magazines.

Most magazines do not have Kindle editions, but they usually have a web edition.  However, many of those do not have full text online.  I got the latest Scientific American today and checking online I find two articles available as full-text, including the cover story “The End of Cosmology,” the one I wanted to read the most.  The others articles are available for money online and SciAm also offers a digital subscription for $39.95 a year that includes 12 new issues and access to 180 old issues.  That seems steep because my paper copies cost just $24.95, and that includes shipping and the slaughter of the pulp trees.  Seems like bits of electrons would cost less.

What I’d really like is a service like Netflix that for a single fee provided me with full access to a range of magazines and their back issues.  I still don’t believe Wired hippie pie in the sky about everything being free.  And if everything free is going to be plastered with ads like a race car then I don’t want free.

Going paperless will be tough.  I don’t think the online Popular Photography will be as nice to read online as flipping through the paper version.  They do a pretty good job and sometimes the photos look better online.  And it’s much easier to maintain back issue information online.  It would be great if they truly showcased every photo with a 1920 x 1200 pixel version.  Now that would be worth subscribing too.  This would be especially great if I could add them to my Desktop Art Gallery.

I currently subscribe to two paper editions of science fiction magazines, Fantasy & Science Fiction and Asimov’s Science Fiction.  Recently I bought an issue of Analog which had the #2 part of a serial so I zipped over the Fictionwise and bought the past issue and as it turned out the third issue was already on sale too.  Fictionwise then sends me my magazines to my Kindle for reading.  So I read a Kindle issue, then read a paper issue and then finished up with a Kindle issue.  That really convinced me I preferred reading SF by Kindle.

The SF mags are slowly losing subscribers so I’m wondering if e-book subscribers are helping or hurting their business.  It costs the same to sub with either edition and once again I feel like I’m getting more for my money with paper but I actually read more stories when I get the Kindle edition.

It will take a year or two for all my paper subscriptions to lapse.  During the time maybe more magazines will come out on Kindle, or I’ll just start reading them online.  I hope the Kindle does become a success and the “Send to Kindle” button starts appearing on web pages.

Going paperless is a lot like going CD-less.  I assume DVDs will be next.  Can magazines and newspapers survive and thrive off of online and e-book editions?  That’s the real question.  If Wired is right then they can, but I don’t know.  So far the tide is against online subscriptions – people expect everything on the web for free and I don’t know if that’s possible in a paperless world.  Right now publishers make the bulk of their income off of paper editions.  Can they even survive in a paperless world without charging?  I don’t know.  I do know I gave up reading my local paper years ago when I discovered I could read the NY Times for free online.

Maybe they could combine free web versions but have a fee based button for sending to the Kindle.  I’d gladly pay 10-25 cents an article for such a fee.

With global warming, oil and water shortages, paper is an expensive luxury if you have a digital world.

Going Paperless 2

Jim

7 thoughts on “Going Paperless

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