The Demise of Print Media February 9, 2009Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
Tags: Books, History
As a long-time subscriber of PC Magazine, I was distressed to discover that, as of their February 2009 issue, they were abandoning their print edition and moving to an all-digital online publication model. I’m the first to admit that it seems a bit odd to complain about an all-digital magazine in an online blog, but hear me out.
I’m all for nifty modern conveniences like computers and electricity, but paper provides a delightfully tangible user experience. The feel of the paper, the sound of the pages, the weight of the magazine, even the smell of the ink: all contribute to the complete sensory experience that is reading. While you can shift the glyphs to a screen of some sort, you cannot replicate the complete feel of reading. As more and more publications move to electronic distribution, these non-visual components of reading will just disappear.
I like to read magazines cover-to-cover. I don’t jump to articles, I get there in time, working through the magazine page by page. You never know what you’ll find as you read your way to the main body of a magazine. A well-edited magazine places all sorts of interesting tidbits in your way, rewarding your sequential trek through the pages. Letters, reviews, product announcements, and the like decorate the linear path through a magazine. Digital magazines have no such meander available to you; you are expected to click (and click and click and click) to go directly to the stuff that interests you. You may find what you want, but you often miss what you need.
Just as important, magazines go everywhere. Planes and trains, cars and boats: you can read them anywhere. When I backpack, I stick a magazine in my pack, to be read by headlamp in my tent after everyone else has gone to sleep. It’s tough to get a connection in the woods; indeed, the whole point of the trip is to get disconnected. I don’t want to drag a “reading device” with me on these trips; I just want to bring paper covered with words. Plus, you can start fires with a magazine in a pinch. Its name to contrary, no one is going to be burning a Kindle any time soon.
Finally, there is my visual impairment. I suffer from a vision condition called “getting old.” Teeny letters on teeny screens were much easier to deal with ten years ago. Now, by the time the font is big enough to be seen, I can only fit a handful of words on the display. Constant scrolling is the true enemy of comprehension.
So farewell, PC Magazine. You shall be missed. I hope PC World can stick it out a bit longer, but I am not banking on it. I’ll hang on to my anachronistic role as long as I can: an agent of digital change clinging to ancient media.