This month, I finally pulled the plug on the dead-tree version of my Sunday paper. I meant to do it for months, but at long last, I couldn't stifle the guilt for even one more second. It was too sad to watch while the paper slowly rotted at the end of the driveway or simply ended up--unread--in my recycling bin every week.
I had been holding back because the paper, The Boston Globe, has a counterintuitive subscription plan: It is cheaper for digital plus the paper version of the Sunday edition of The Boston Globe than for the digital-only plan. It makes no sense. Obviously, the paper is trying to protect its old business model, while transitioning readers to the more modern digital version.
I'm guessing The Globe is trying to bolster its subscription numbers so it can continue to collect advertising revenue from the paper version, while giving people a digital option too. The trouble is, I love reading the paper on my iPad. It's highly readable, and I don't end up with ink on my fingers or a pile of paper in my living room. I can just flick through the pages and click to find more articles. I found myself picking up the iPad every week, while the physical version sat lonely inside its protective plastic bag-only removed to be tossed unceremoniously away, a glaring symbol of the changing newspaper business model.
But I learned not everyone feels the way I do about paper publications. Not too long ago, I was having dinner with friends when they brought up a beloved publication moving to web-only. It was a huge disappointment for these folks. They didn't like reading online, and they would dearly miss this publication in their mailbox every month. I must admit, I wasn't terribly sympathetic.
I tried to explain that the economics had simply changed. Print ads were drying up, and it was difficult for most publications to justify the additional cost of purchasing paper and ink, running printing presses, rolling trucks, and mailing issues-and all the other costs that go into running a print publication. From their perspective, reading online was more difficult. They couldn't get the big picture they could get thumbing through a publication. For them, the optimal reading experience didn't translate online and couldn't equal the feeling they had holding that paper copy in their hands. Even when I pointed out the power of linking and the ability to search and find articles, I couldn't assuage the clear disappointment they felt at the loss of the paper version.
As someone who spends a good deal of every day on one electronic device or another-often reading and writing articles-being digital feels comfortable and natural, which is quite the opposite feeling my friends had. But that's not to say I don't get what they're going through. I still choose paper books over electronic ones. I prefer the tactile feel of the book in my hands-of turning pages back and forth-that I just can't capture in electronic form. I fully recognize the advantages of ebooks, but I don't particularly like them.
Interestingly enough, a recent Business Insider story suggested that, surprisingly, teens still like paper books by a wide margin. When it comes to books, only 20% of teens prefer to buy the electronic version. While my friends who mourned the loss of their favorite print publication were older-from a generation that grew up with paper-this study found that teens had a similar affinity to paper, at least where books are concerned.
For some reason, the book and newspaper experiences are separate for me and, I suspect, for teens as well. Studies suggest young people have no interest in physical newspapers. It's been a couple of weeks since I gave up my printed paper, and I don't miss that walk down the driveway in my pajamas to grab it.
I also don't miss the ink on my fingers or the pile of papers left in the living room. So far, being digital-at least where my newspaper is concerned-has been working for me.