Comfort, newspapers and electronic reading

NOTE: This post is written in an attempt to draw out factors that make electronic reading more comfortable and accessible. We welcome your comments to further this conversation.

Comfort has always been a primary element in my reading. I no longer read paperbacks, unless they’re the larger-sized “trade paperbacks,” as the tiny print and packed pages are not comfortable to read.

But now, sustainablility — the ability to continue to do something in a way that is protective of all our environment, including our economy — has become as important a consideration as comfort.

So let’s consider the pros and cons of paper vs. electronic news reporting and opinions:

Paper pros:

portability — you can easily take a print newspaper with you

comfort — no change in habits required to continue to receive news delivery in customary way

recycling — newsprint can be used to start fires or compost gardens

expense to reader — from $.75 to $1.50 for a daily, up to $5 for a Sunday NY Times, subscription costs per year

point of purchase — supermarkets, gas stations and news boxes in addition to home deliveries

journalistic standards — while most print newspapers claim to be impartial, fair and accurate, many have been detected to be biased or slanted

Paper cons

waste — more papers are usually printed than circulated. Plus advertising supplements, and ads in editorial pages, are more often disregarded than read. In addition, the practice of  wrapping each individual paper in a plastic bag has led some former subscribers in the Seatle are to cancel home delivery. Those subscribers gave up the comfort of reading the newspaper in their living room in order to keep that much less plastic from clogging our environment. It’s not a trivila decision, when one considers that an individual’s action, multiplied by many individuals, can make a difference.

circulation — can be delayed and interrupted, creating hassle of re-establishing

cost — production costs are very expensive, the newspaper business is cutting back drastically on staff and frequency; cost to consumer likewise rises, and advertising costs are also high

ease-of-use — newspaper size can be invasive to bus- or plane-travellers, newsprint can smudge, print size may be very small

Electronic media pros:

circulation — most newspaper sites are well-established online, and many sources link to other news sites. Also, the ease of mounting a wesite or blog makes news of any stripe available to readers worldwide

expense — nominal to the reader who has already paid for internet service; online subscription costs, when they exist, are also low

portablility — not quite “foldable tucked under your arm’ but with the near-ubiquity of laptops and handheld communication devices, computer access to the media sites has increased portability.

connectivity — the hallmark of internet communications, where readers can respond and link others to similar topics.

journalistic standards — the media that moved from print to electronic delivery, still uphold their putative values of impartiality and accuracy. Contemporary  newsblogs appear to announce their bias upfront in the perspective of their contributors.  

Electronic media cons:

portability –Dependence on batteries and/or electric power affect portability; not as manageable as a newspaper or magazine

comfort — while computer text can often be increased, extended time spent watching computer monitors is hard on the eyes. Also, you just can’t “curl up with a computer” or read in bed if you want to be comfortable. Reading a computer for entertainment reminds me of a bachelor eating over a sink.

distractibility — while the “links” of internet reading allow interjections into the conversation, they can also interrupt the focus of the reader.

recycling — Overproduction of computers mimics the auto-industry; obsolete computers dumped at landfills are creating a new environmnental burden.

journalistic standards — paradoxically, news organizations are only liable for defamation and libel if they edit readers’ comments before they are aired online. Moderation after the fact is the standard, court law has decided. It is up to the individual news organization to decide how subjective or objective they want the content of their reporting to be.

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Is the Kindle the best that can be delivered in terms of portability and comfort? Rick Hendrickson, a long-time musician and electronic technology expert, recently said that it’s up to the artists and “domestically-inclined” among us to work with the computer designers to make electronic reading more accessible and comfortable to the readers. I have a strong prejudice against electronic “convenience” as I feel that a product must made of natural materials to be “alive” in the intimate, rewarding way that is the authentic and alive way of experiencing life.