I’ve been a Newsweek subscriber since I was in college, and reading that magazine every week was a drop-everything, read-it-cover-to-cover feast that I eagerly looked forward to and never missed.
So when they announced last year that they were going to an all-digital format, I had misgivings, to say the least. I’ve still got two years on my subscription, for heaven’s sake. And since their last print issue arrived in my house in January, the only way I can now read my favorite magazine is on a computer screen.
Media providers seem to think that everyone has an iPad or iPhone nowadays, so they design their apps for those platforms. I don’t have either. I have a desktop Mac and a laptop PC. I had trouble figuring out how to access their suggested e-reader to either computer, and found that on the PC, the pages displayed at an unreadably small size. If that were my only computer, I’d be tearing Newsweek a new app over their accessibility and demanding a full refund of my remaining subscription.
I’m lucky, though, in that I also have a 21.5″ Mac that can display two magazine pages at full size side by side. The reader works fine on that, as far as readers go.
So I loaded up the latest issue tonight and started browsing through it. In less than five minutes, my eyes felt strained from watching the pages scroll past me one spread at a time. Reading text on screen is harder than reading it in print for several reasons, such as the fixed vertical angle of the screen and the fact that the screen projects light toward my eyes whereas the printed page reflects it.
But for me, the aggravating part is that I have no choice but to sit here, at my computer, in my studio, to read Newsweek. I can’t take the Mac out onto the deck on a nice day or into bed with me to read before sleeping, or put it on my kitchen table so I can read over breakfast. I can’t stretch out on the couch with a dog on either side of me and enjoy reading my magazine the way I have always enjoyed it.
Now reading Newsweek feels like a chore, and I feel cheated.
If I had an iPad, I am certain the situation would be no better because the only way to read the text would be to enlarge the pages on the screen, which would require scrolling from top to bottom and side to side to read all the text because every page is larger than the iPad’s screen at 100%. This is fine for a few pages or maybe even a few articles, but over a full issue, it’s exhausting and aggravating. It used to take me about half an hour to read the paper issue each week, and I usually went back to it three or four times to read or reread this article or that one before I recycled it. That same amount of time scrolling and reading onscreen, at least all at one time, is simply intolerable.
Even Bill Gates agrees with that:
Most typefaces were not designed for screens and, thanks to a limited number of pixels, are just fuzzy reproductions of the originals. The result is that reading on-screen is hard on the eyes and takes a lot more effort. People do it only for short documents. The longer the read, the more irritating and distracting are all the faults in display, layout and rendering.
I understand why Newsweek no longer prints on paper and I realize there are a great many perks for me as a reader in the electronic version. They are keeping up with their readers’ wants and needs and utilizing technology in a way that is good for the planet and good for them. Not so good for me. I miss holding my magazine in my hand, rolling it up, tearing out pages to keep or share, carrying it with me around the house and reading it wherever I happen to be, reading a whole page at a time without moving any part of my body except my eyes.
Technology is great and all, but I’m having a hard time wrapping my arms around all-digital media. I live so much of my life online and onscreen as it is that I welcome the quiet, non-interactive, non-urgent, non-hyperlinked alternative that analog paper media provide. As we know, I’m old-school about paper stuff.
If my local paper ever moves to the internet, I will be devastated. How am I supposed to eat breakfast in the morning without a newspaper to read? I can hardly imagine it.
Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.
~ C.S. Lewis