…that is the question. Whether ’tis better to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous costs, or to read my favorite magazine online for free.
Actually, the cost isn’t outrageous: Atlantic Monthly is trying to get me to re-up my subscription, telling me the regular price of $25 I’ve always paid is some sort of special “alumni” discount. As though they really could get new subscribers to pony up $60 for twelve issues. Twenty-five bucks is only two dollars apiece to have the magazine packaged up and delivered to my door by the U.S. Postal Service. That can’t possibly cover the cost of mailroom staff, mail list management, packaging, and shipping. It’s a bargain, really.
I do enjoy The Atlantic. But the problem is, oftentimes I don’t read it. Sometimes a new issue will arrive and I’ll realize the old issue is still sitting on the bureau in the bedroom or on the desk in my office, scarcely ever opened. My life is so fractured and so gestalt that I rarely find enough time to focus on anything longer than a few minutes. Unless…yes, unless I’m in front of the computer. These days, the only time I focus on anything for any length of time is when I’m sitting in front of a monitor or trapped on the light rail reading page proofs.
And oddly, The Atlantic is online! Apparently the whole thing is posted, free of charge, cover to cover. Not only that, but it’s got videos, it’s got slideshows, it’s got blogs…all sorts of extra content. And all free.
So…why would anyone even think of sending a $25 check to get a paper version—a lesser version, really—of all this splendid stuff? It’s hard to come up with an excuse.
One reason, I guess, is the impulse to try to help keep journalism alive. It’s like a charitable contribution. Too bad it’s not tax-deductible.
Would I pay $25 to read it online?
Nope. As a medium, the computer screen doesn’t give me what I’m looking for in leisure reading: the tactile sensation of pages turning, the portability…with a high-speed cable connection, you can’t carry a computer to the backyard, to the breakfast table, to the bathtub. And what could be more uncomfortable than craning your neck to read a laptop monitor? That’s not my idea of leisure reading.
On the other hand, as a practical matter I’m not reading the magazine in those places.
I do occasionally pick up on ideas from Atlantic writers for this blog. If I read every issue online, I probably would engage more of those ideas in my own writing, more often, because FaM’s dashboard would be right at hand. Instead of putting down an article with the thought that I must blog about it—and then forgetting it—I might go directly from the author to Posts > Add New.
Hmmm… Maybe I should void this check?
What say you?
Do you cling to your hard-copy, snail-mail subscriptions, or have you abandoned them in favor of the Internet? Why? If we all stop reading print magazines, what will that do to the world as we know it? And what will happen come the Revolution, when all us proles are knocked offline, or, as in China, our online choices are censored?