Category Archives: paper vs ereader

Lost in Transition

There are things to love about a paper newspaper. It has a substantial feel in the hands. The paper used in newspapers is pretty much the largest paper we handle on a regular basis. It isn’t slick paper; it is rough peasant paper. We may peruse what we see first above the fold on the front page because convention tells us that this is the story that the editor chose as the story of the day. We smile, grimace, or shake our head sadly depending on the content. We unfold the paper to see the entire front page. From this point on the paper becomes a bit more unwieldy to handle. When we float open the cover page we have to hold our arms wide to accommodate the doubled width of the paper. Perhaps our eyes skim down to the bottom left corner to see who bought that key ad space.
Now we have to make a decision. If we are at a table or desk we may leave the paper open on that surface while we scan the two pages in front of us, reading headlines, taking in ads, deciding what to give a more thorough read and when we will be satisfied with just a headline. If we happen to be in a chair or eating breakfast, however, we will have to fold the paper in order to read it comfortably. Some may only fold it in half, but most will make several more folds as per their habit until the paper can easily be held in one hand for reading, freeing the other hand for eating or drinking. Often the ads call out for our attention as loudly as the news stories; sometimes we don’t even notice the ads, or vice versa. We still have ahead of us the various sections that beckon to different readers. Some have to tune in to the sports section, for others it is the opinions, many must look at the obits and the weddings, and there are lots of crossword people.  Some are looking to find their new home or apartment. Others may be thinking about a new vehicle or a puppy. Such a delight; a newspaper!
There are, of course, drawbacks to newspapers. One is that it is made of paper and as such it drains our world of an important resource. It has ink all over it so it doesn’t smell great and sometimes the ink stains our fingers or our clothing. A newspaper becomes obsolete almost as soon as it is read. If not regularly discarded it can be used to create tunnels and corridors of paper in your home, but, if someone sees this, you will be carted away. Discarded newspapers can be used for weed barriers in gardens, for packing, for lining pet cages, for wrapping garbage and other creative purposes, but regardless of how creative you are you probably cannot reuse all the newspapers you stockpile.
I have tried reading a newspaper on an e-reader. Books do not seem terribly different on an e-reader; newspapers are another type of beast though. It is not at all as satisfying to read an on-line newspaper as it is to read a real live newspaper. There is no crinkling, no folding, none of the wonderful newspaper schema we store away in our brains as our newspaper reading experiences build up. It is, however easier to tune into and read a specific article, and there is that added advantage that you can up the print size. There is probably still a news room for a digital newspaper, but it is probably missing those human elements we call forth when we picture a print-based news room. Do reporters still have deadlines? Probably. Do they have to show up at the news room in person with their notes and type the article onsite. Probably not. The newspaper experience just does not transition well to an e-reader.
 It doesn’t matter. The handwriting is on the wall. Paper newspapers will someday be obsolete. Green concerns make it inevitable. A day will come when there are children who have never seen a newspaper. They won’t know what they’re missing, but the rest of us certainly will.