I’m starting to learn just what I’ve got myself into since I had the bright idea of Going Paperless. After I wrote that post I decided I’d focus on giving up newspapers and magazines and justified that the paper in books is different because books are meant to last and not be disposable. Going cold turkey on buying magazines has turned out to be very hard.
I originally planned to go paperless to save on trees and the natural resources and energy that go into making paper. I assumed digital is more environmental. Since that time I’ve discovered other benefits to going paperless.
I buy a lot of magazines and subscribe to maybe twenty of them. I love magazines. I spent several years working in a Periodicals department at a university library. To me each magazine represents a subculture. After writing my original post I’ve been to my favorite bookstores a number of times. I linger in the magazine section looking at the issues I’d love to buy and walk away feeling disappointed, empty, even sad. Well, I am saving some bucks too!
So far I’ve only read Time, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s, Reader’s Digest and Analog on my Kindle. I’ve only subscribed to Time and just bought single issues of the others. Amazon.com doesn’t offer that many magazines yet. I could get The Atlantic which I currently subscribe to, and over at Fictionwise.com I could get Interzone, a SF magazine I’ve always wanted to try.
Luckily, I have about 12 feet of back issues to tide me over before going through total withdrawal. You see, I’ve always bought far more magazines than I can read. To be honest, I do way more flipping than actual reading – looking at photographs, cartoons, ads, reading tidbits and columns, and only sometimes getting down to reading the core articles.
Reading on the Kindle is teaching me to read differently. The Kindle does not have photos. Nor is it practical to just flip through the pages. When I get out my Kindle to read a magazine it means reading – and reading only. And that’s very different. For casual scanning I’m going to have to use the web.
Nor do I have colorful covers, art and photography to seduce me into a particular article. Geez, I might need to hang around the bookstore to get aroused and then run home and hope I can find that story my eyes are bulging to read. The net has art and graphics but I can’t remember seeing a magazine site that entice me into reading a story like a magazine layout.
The latest issue of Astronomy Magazine has a stunning cover showing a bizarre image with the headline, “Is this the shape of the Universe?” And sad to say Astronomy Magazine does not offer any freebies at their web site. Going paperless will mean giving up this periodical.
Discover also has an eye catching cover with a lead story “Before the Big Bang: 3 Theories Explore the Backstory of Creation.” Jumping over to the site gives no indication if I could read that article but there’s lot to read, with many entries on the same subject. The DiscoverMagazine.com site is geared to provide reading material but it appears to have a web based structure. It’s a busy site with lots of tiny print. I’ll still offers lots to read after going paperless, it just won’t be easy to read.
Scientific American has a beautiful cover too that beckons me to read, “The End of Cosmology,” an article I can read online. The SciAm.com home page is colorful, but still not as inviting as an actual issue. SciAm also provides many full articles online, but reserves content on others. After dumping paper I will have reading material here but not always the essay I want.
It would be great if these magazines offered a Kindle edition. And it would be even greater if Kindle 2.0 had a nice hi-rez color screen.
There is another way to go paperless without considering the Kindle and the web, and that’s audio. I already read 40-50 books a year via my iPod. I can get Scientific American and The New Yorker in an abridged audio format.
Learning to read magazines with the Kindle means I need to change my buying habits. It’s one thing to buy magazines and let them sit around on the shelf mostly unread, but it seems down right silly to buy magazines that go unread and unseen as bits and bytes on my Kindle. To be practical I need to only buy what I can read.
Going paperless means learning to buy just the amount of words I can read on a regular basis. Learning to do that will be difficult. I’ve subscribed to the audio edition of The New Yorker before and like my paper copies many issues went unopened.
Thus going paperless means changing a lot more than I previously thought. I opened my Kindle last night and discovered I had four issues of Time queue up already. I spent little over an hour and read many stories. Without the photos Time really is a much different magazine. The Kindle formatting tries to describe charts and graphs with words and that takes some imagination to see.
On the other hand I got a much better feel for the content of the magazine. I flipped through an entire issue one screen at a time. The Kindle tends to encourage speed reading. There’s a delay in “flipping” pages, just enough that I still grasp some content I’m skipping past. This causes two things to happen. One I pick up tidbits just by flipping, and second I end up jumping back and reading stories I had planned to skip.
If I really have the guts to go paperless I’m going to have to change myself significantly. Strangely enough going paperless might force me to focus on content and learning to read more efficiently. I’ll end up reading more if I stick with the Kindle. It will also force me to learn my limitations on how much I can read.
Moving away from magazines might mean spending more time reading whole non-fiction books, or watching more documentaries. Nova (PBS) and The Universe (History Channel) have gorgeous visuals in high definition, far more stunning than magazine covers. Magazine reading has always been the shallowest form of reading. Ditto for newspapers. Going paperless may also mean focusing on more substantial reading sources.
Finally, there are the Best American series of annual books that collect the best of the best periodical writing from the previous year. These include The Best American Science and Nature Writing and The Best American Science Writing. And I just got The Best of Technology Writing 2007. I could easily give up magazine reading and just buy these volumes. I might discover that the amount of time I spend reading non-fiction essays and articles each year might be equal to the time it takes to read a handful of annual best of anthologies.
By the way, I have thrown away a number of magazine subscription offers – some that made me want to cry because they were so cheap. I love cheap magazine subscriptions. That’s why I have so many magazines on my selves going unread. Another reason going paperless is good for me. It breaks a bad consumer habit.