Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

To renew or not to renew…

…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?

Author: funny

This post may be a paid guest contribution.


  1. I now only get mags via frequent flyer miles. I live only a few minutes from the public library, where I can check out old issues, and the Writing Center at work has a subscription. My son loves Saveur and I got him a subscription (3 yrs for $7.50) through Ebay (but no Atlantic available right now–I checked).

    So that’s the NO. The YES could be that you want to support writing/writers! It’s a fairly inexpensive indulgence and you can surely tax deduct it from the income from your editing biz.

  2. Wait, people have subscriptions to print versions of publications? They don’t just use Google reader?!?

    I get all my news online, and a good portion of my non-fiction leisure reading. I think it’s a generational thing… I would guess that most people 25 and under do the same thing.

    • @ Shuchong– {chortle!!} See, the problem is, we dinosaurs have these exceeding long necks, which make it hard to eyeball that Google reader. Well, except for the tyrannosaurs…they have no necks (no brains, either), but those three-fingered paws don’t make it with a keyboard.

      I think that the 25-&-under…uhm, make that the 35-&-under set has led the way to getting most news online, but we dinosaurs are lumbering after you. The truth is, I get more and more of my news online. The only reason I keep the sub to the NY Times is that I get an ultra-smoking deal on the price — they practically give it away, and in fact on the campus they DO give it away, for free. Right now I think that if you’re inclined to read books (now a major outlet for investigative journalism and other large journalistic endeavors), you can get a pretty good feel for the news by combining online sources with high-quality reportage published in book form.

      It means the reader has to be very proactive, reaching out for news and cobbling together a broad array of sources to create a kind of custom “newspaper”…and one hopes we’ve let young people understand how important it is for citizens to know what the rascals are up to down at City Hall (and on Wall Street, and inside the Beltway…). It takes a fairly motivated person to seek news and assess the credibility of some online sites.

  3. Hm … on the one hand, I really feel like we ought to support our publications, online or not, lest they die off in the continuing demolition of print journalism. On the other hand, pf blogger!

    I’m coming up with a solid Neutral on this.

  4. Er, dismantling, or even deconstruction, I meant.

  5. NYTimes online
    Knitting mags – mix of online and print
    local paper – print on Sunday only.
    books – mix of online, kindle and print. I still love my library and am still a recovering Barnes and Nobel addict.