Print vs. Digital

Remember magazines? Not that they’ve disappeared of course, there are still plenty of them at the checkout counter in the supermarket. Just that, overall, there are a lot fewer print options to consume these days. Newspapers have been in a steady decline for most of my life. The Siskiyou Daily News, for example, is only a daily in its on-line version. In print it is a weekly. That’s probably a good thing as there isn’t much worth reading in there, but it is indicative of the trend.

It is too expensive to print and mail actual paper copies of things. You don’t get owners manuals or instruction guides anymore, those are all on-line. We all know what .pdf documents are and we all have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on our computers.

I have no problem with digital documents or e-books or e-zines or e-news or whatever. I use the internet a lot and I spend much of that time looking for interesting stuff to read. I like to read. I’m a voracious consumer of words.

Mostly I read fiction. I prefer actual, physical books to e-readers. It’s a personal preference, not a moral judgment. Things like Kindle are pretty cool. You can store a lot of books on one of those things and a whole library is suddenly portable. But I am more comfortable with paper so I still buy books made from paper. I’ve got shelves and shelves of books. I’m running out of room as I have literally hundreds of books. I keep telling myself I’m going to buy fewer books and then I buy some more. Since the brick-and-mortar bookstore is increasingly an anachronism, I buy books on-line. Usually I only buy them from independent booksellers (like my favorite bookshop, Ziesings) and try to avoid giving Amazon any more money than I already do.

I used to read an excellent monthly magazine called Earth that was put out by the American Geosciences Institute but they stopped publishing it a few years back. The State of California used to publish a superb monthly called California Geology but they stopped that twenty years ago. The University of California still prints and distributes (for free) a quarterly called California Agriculture which I like, but it used to be a monthly. I suspect it will disappear like all the rest and go entirely digital. The College of Natural Resources at Berkeley sends me a quarterly magazine called Breakthroughs which is always interesting but too short and too infrequent.

I need some good non-fiction print reading material. I like science and technology and I like learning about natural resources. I like stuff about agriculture, mining, and energy. I’m interested in global warming and climate change. Most of the good material on these subjects is on the internet.

Magazines are filled with ads. That’s OK, but I don’t understand why I have to pay a subscription charge. Don’t the ads cover that expense? If they don’t, they should. It is morally reprehensible to PAY for an advertisement! I’m willing to pay a premium for a magazine that doesn’t have ads. I feel the same way about TV. If you pay for TV it should be ad-free. If you are paying for TV (like cable or satellite) that means you are paying for the ads, too. Ridiculous. If there are advertisements then the programming should be free of charge. At least these new streaming services offer you some of that—quality content with a lot less B.S. While we are on the subject of paying for ads, how about all the T-shirts and hats with advertising on them? Does Nike pay us to wear their basketball shorts? No! We have to pay for that privilege. Yikes, what suckers we are.

Capitalism requires an advertising industry. We wouldn’t buy most things that we buy if there were no ads. We have to be admonished repeatedly to get this and get that or else we won’t spend enough money to keep the economy going. It is a really insidious and destructive black art, this advertising thing. Cleverly packaged lies and propaganda burrow themselves into our brains and shape how we see the world. Can anyone actually listen to commercial radio stations these days? I can’t. The advertising is so obnoxious it makes the whole medium repulsive.

But I still need to read. I have to have challenging stuff to chew on. My brain requires regular feeding. I know I could read the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times or Foreign Affairs or other weighty stuff but that’s too much opinion. Just because the people spouting the opinions are smart and good writers doesn’t mean they aren’t full of shit.

I need to read but I need reliable stuff. I don’t want Time or People of any of that checkout counter jive. I don’t have enough interest in guns, or horses, or photography, or automobiles, or gardening or any of the other subjects that the specialty hobbyist-type magazines cover. Those are still plentiful on the racks at the supermarket. I’m always amazed at the number of publications devoted to The Old West. Americans have a serious nostalgia problem! (The Ancient Greeks thought nostalgia was a kind of disease, hence the -algia ending which is Greek for “pain.”)

So I have to find some good print material that’s not just a bucket load of opinions dressed up as “analysis.” One man’s analysis is another man’s asshole. Or something like that. Opinions are like assholes—everyone’s got one. There, that’s what I was thinking. It was one of my Dad’s favorite expressions. He thought everyone was an asshole. Or even if they weren’t an actual asshole, they were still full of shit. He was a bit of a difficult fellow as you might imagine.

I suppose I’ll bite the bullet and join AAAS and subscribe to Science. Scientists are opinionated motherfuckers, and many of them suffer from the Curse of the Smart Person, that is, the inability to believe that they could be wrong. But the process of science tends to weed that stuff out. Ultimately, you have to have evidence in science. You have to have experimental tests of your ideas. That sort of thing is not required in other fields. Imagine if politicians and pundits were held accountable for their claims. In science, you have to be wrong. That is only way the field advances.

Science is pretty expensive. And you get 50 issues per year. About half the material in the magazine is too difficult for me. The articles are often for other experts in the field, not the general reader. I’ll be swimming in reading material. And then I’ll have piles of old magazines that no one will want. Sure, I can just do the on-line thing, but that’s the problem. I don’t really like reading lengthy stuff on-line. I like it in my hands.

Maybe one of my brilliant readers out there can suggest a good magazine or other paper product that I might enjoy. I’m kind of fussy, but open to suggestions.

Thanks for reading. And you can always print out this page if you prefer hard copies!

4 thoughts on “Print vs. Digital

  1. Science News is a great publication. It has short, concise articles on the most recent findings and advancements that are well written and surprisingly complete for their length. Dad got me a subscription to is several decades ago, when I was studying to be a biologist, and I have continued it to this day. I now have my students at UCSC read articles from it as part of their homework assignments (along with an occasional article from Science). It is reasonably priced and comes once a week.


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