Yesterday I mentioned in this space how I had stumbled across Ann Patchett’s wonderful Atlantic piece about indie bookselling after a wi-fi outage forced me to do what I never do: pick up the print magazine, to which I subscribe, and read it, instead of reading the Atlantic through its website, which I visit several times daily.
It happened again last night, during the wi-fi outage, with Jeffrey Goldberg’s excellent and provocative Atlantic essay on gun control — more on which in a moment; save your commentary on it on for the subsequent thread. Again, it somehow feels important to say that I probably wouldn’t have read it if I had not seen it in the traditional magazine. For one thing, I don’t really care about the gun control issue, so I probably would not have clicked on the Atlantic‘s web headline. For another, the fact that there’s always something narrowly tailored to one’s own interests available on the web makes it even more likely that I would have skipped Goldberg’s essay in favor of something more in tune with my preferences. Encountering it in the print format made me read it … and I’m so glad that I did.
Incidentally, I’m also a subscriber to The New Yorker, which I typically read on my iPad, downloaded on Mondays (the print version arrives later in the week, by which time I’ve already gone through that issue). You have to read the NYer on your iPad as if it were a magazine. I mean, you can jump around by following links in the table of contents, but the way it’s formatted encourages you to read it in the traditional linear way. This is great, because it makes me consider and read pieces that I probably wouldn’t have clicked on if presented only as a hyperlink.
Funny, but when I subscribed to the print edition of The New York Times, instead of to the web-only edition, I was better informed — and for the same reason. I’m almost never going to read a Times sports story online, unless it’s highly promoted, because I don’t really care about sports. I read sports stories fairly often in the print edition, because I would at least look at the cover of the sports section. Same with fashion stories in the Times. I practically never read them in the online version, but I always at least looked at the section in the print product.
There’s a lesson here for a certain kind of reader, which is to say, for readers like me. Over to you, Alan Jacobs; I need you to lay it out for me, in that way that you do.