Going Paperless 4 – Alternative Methods

I’m not sure how many people are interested in the topic of going paperless since it gets few hits on the stats page – but I’m enjoying exploring the idea.  And I did get an email from Adam Kadleck suggesting I try out Zinio, an online magazine service.  Since he works for the company he also provided me with a sample subscription to Saveur Magazine, a colorful periodical about cuisine.

A huge shortcoming of the Kindle is its lack of ability to show photographs and color graphics.  I remember reading an early complaint about the Kindle from a Slashdot kid who whined the Kindle couldn’t handle comics and porn -reading material that Zinio can handle. 

A magazine is not very magazine-like on the Kindle.  Zinio sells magazines and has a custom software reader so magazine pages look exactly like they do in their paper form.  It even fakes page turning with graphics and sound.  Zinio is paperless but with more of the natural features of paper.  Saveur Magazine would not work on the Kindle.  Without the appetizing photos of the food it would lose much of its appeal.

The Zinio software reader works very well on my 19″ wide-screen LCD monitor showing two full page at a time.  However, I need to zoom in to read the content.  Zinio makes this a breeze, but I wonder if I had a 22″ monitor if I could read without zooming.  The height of my 19″ monitor is about an inch less than the height of a standard magazine after you take into account the Zinio menu.  The screen view on 22″ monitor could well be the same height as a paper magazine.

Right now Zinio has a decent selection of magazines, but far from the selection of a good bookstore.  And like ebooks, the issue of the pricing of e-magazines is still questionable.  Why pay the same subscription price for a paperless magazine when the publisher isn’t covering the overhead for paper, printing and postage?  It’s not uncommon to see $5.99 and $6.99 mags at the bookstore – I would think going paperless and using Zinio they should sell for $1.99 at most.  PC World is $19.97 a year on Zinio.  I’ve gotten better offers than that in the mail.  Science is $99.00 – and that seems way too much for electrons.

The photographs on Zinio look pretty good but nowhere near the quality of a slick paper print.  Strangely enough the quality reminds me of the new paper used in Sky & Telescope, a big step down from their old paper.  You can magnify Zinio photographs but they break up.  It would be great if the Zinio photographs offered quality features over print magazines, like larger hi-rez popup views.

The feature I would want the most from Zinio is full text indexing.  I have several years of Sky & Telescope on my shelves, but finding an article means lots of flipping pages.  It would be great if I had a library of Zinio magazines that I could quickly query for instant data.

There is an online company Press Display that offers reading newspapers online in the same way Zinio works for magazines, but their reader is browser based.  Even though many of these newspapers offer free online editions, the ability to read a newspaper that looks like the printed edition does have value, maybe even value worth paying.  The New York Times offers the Times Reader for $14.95 a month.  It’s not a system for seeing the paper as printed, but a online viewer to making newspaper reading better than reading through a web browser, so its yet another alternative to paper.

The problem with these solutions is being tied to your monitor for reading.  Now I don’t mind reading off a monitor – screen resolution is now better than newsprint and fonts can be enlarged to beat tiny magazine typefaces.  What I’d like is to read in my La-Z-Boy, but to do that will require waiting for an ebook reader with a hi-rez color screen the size of a standard magazine page.  I expect such a Star Trek like tablet in the next few years.

I don’t think it will be long before we’ll stop murdering millions of trees just to let people read a couple headlines and do the daily crossword.  Going paperless means changing habits but I think there will be technology to help us to keep our old addictive reading behaviors while adding new features that help us process knowledge.

Going Paperless 5


Going Paperless 3 – Do I Have A Word Addiction?

I’m learning a lot about myself through this simple experiment of trying to go paperless.  I buy probably 100 times as many words as I actually read – and that guess might even need to go as high as a 1,000 times.  After buying my Kindle I decided to only purchase Kindle reading in a just-in-time-to-read fashion – no stocking up.  I’ve known for years my eyes are bigger than my reading habit stomach when it comes to buying books and magazines. 

I could have immediately filled up my Kindle with hundreds of free classic books by going to the elegant web site Feedbooks.  I could have jammed it with blogs, magazines and newspaper subscriptions.  Instead I bought two books, subscribed to Time Magazine, bought a few issues of my favorite SF&F magazines, and download a couple dozen sample chapters of books I was considering buying.

It quickly became apparent that even this light load was too much.  I read one of the books, started the second, read some of stories in the magazines, and a couple sample chapters.  I’m struggling to keep up with the magazine reading because I’ve already gotten six issues of Time. [By the way, for some reason I’m getting way more out of Time by reading on the Kindle than I ever did out of the paper copy.  I think photos and ads must be distracting.]  Because I have such a backlog of paper books and magazines on my bookshelves to read, I don’t read on my Kindle full time yet.  I wished all my reading material was on my Kindle because it’s easier to read E-ink over most of the paper formatted pages I have stacking my shelves.  Also, I could monitor my reading flow better.

People compare finding data on the Internet to drinking from a fire hose.  I think that metaphor is outdated.  I think it’s like lighting a cigarette from the exhaust of the Saturn V booster.  Trying to keep up my daily data input is like being the little robot, Number 5 from the movie Short Circuit.  I keep telling myself, “More data, more data,” but I can’t handle it.  I’m addicted to words and I need to get control.

So weeks ago I decided to go paperless as a start.  I’m tossing all my magazine renewals as I get them.  I’m cleaning out the stacks of back issues.  And I’ve begun to study the online editions of my favorite magazines to see how much I can practically read online.  (See my new Magazines section.) 

I’ve quickly learned that I actually don’t read as much as I want to, or think I do.  I’m like a squirrel that hides a thousand nuts for each one I eat.  I could save myself a lot of time and energy by breaking this compulsive habit.  This experiment to get rid of paper magazines and newspapers is teaching me I need to change my personality.  Reading is good, but wanting to read everything is bad.  Being God and knowing about every sparrow must be an awful stressful profession.

I need to find my reading Walden and channel Henry David Thoreau for awhile.  I have no intention of giving up on words altogether, but I need to go on a diet.  My first impulse is try to read only one short story or essay a day.  The idea was to daily meditate on one inspiring work.  Even this might be too much, because I’d like to read a really good story and then contemplate it by writing a blog post.  That would take several hours of work, and I don’t have that much time every day to spare.

If I can ever get down to such a contemplative reading habit I might find I can only handle one good work every three or four days.  Is it better to nibble on a lot of reading potato chips or to just have one good cerebral meal?

I actually get 40-50 books read each year by listening to audio books while doing other things, so I’m not worried about full length books and novels.  See “How Audible.com Changed My Life.”  I’m concerned with magazines, newspapers, blogs, RSS feeds, web sites, emails, and all the other sources of short lengths of words I gorged myself on daily while storing up even more thinking tomorrow I’ll be reading even faster than I do today. 

It’s like I’ve got my own rat race of digital consumption going.  Since pledging to go paperless I’ve been cleaning out my email inbox and unsubscribing to lots of newsletters, lists, announcements and web sites.  I started visiting LifeHacker but not subscribing.

Reading was much easier when I was a poor kid and I got all my books from the library.  I didn’t own books then, just had a stack of four or five sitting on my bedside table.  Then I grew up and got a job that financed buying all the books I wanted.  After that came the Internet with googles of free words, and I’ve reached a stage in my life where I’m drowning in reading.  Damn, I’ve got to find a way to manage that Saturn V exhaust of data addiction.

Going Paperless 4






Going Paperless 2 – Magazine Reading

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.

Going Paperless 3


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


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