Friday, June 11, 2010

Old technologies

I recently started getting home delivery of The New York Times. Readers of extremely long standing will remember that I attempted to subscribe when I first moved here, but was thwarted--and since it was an expense I couldn't justify when I was living in the big city on a grad student stipend, I haven't been a subscriber for the better part of a decade.

But now, suddenly, home delivery is available in my area. It's been amazing.

I never got used to reading newspapers online, so mostly I didn't. Sure, I'd go to the homepage and read the headlines, or I'd search for things I knew I wanted--a theatre review, say, or the latest coverage of a particular event--but I got most of my news from the radio.

The newspaper is an elegant piece of technology, designed to deliver its particular content in an optimal way, but online newspapers don't mimic that experience. They're clunky and inefficient, difficult to skim, and clicking on a story becomes a commitment: you're locked into reading just that story, and you can only read it sequentially.

But now, in just 20-30 minutes, I can flip through my entire newspaper, read every headline, and dip into and out of stories at will. For the first time in years, I'm on top of basic sports and business news--two subjects that I care about, but not enough to click over to those separate sections in the NYT online, and then click on each individual headline for articles that I probably don't want to read in full anyway. In about 15 seconds a day, I can keep tabs on my hometown baseball team and all the other teams' relative rankings (though given how poorly my team has been doing, maybe I'd be better off without that particular benefit).

There are physical pleasures to newspapers, too. I like the oversized sheets of paper and the ink that transfers to the ridges of my fingers. I like spreading the pages across my dining room table and sitting in the sun with a cup of coffee, a cat or two, and sometimes Cosimo. I like the routine and the ritual, and the fact that reading a physical paper takes me away from my office and my computer, where I spend too much time anyway.

But mostly, I'm marveling at the technology itself. I'm glad it still exists.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hell yeah.

Susan said...

I totally agree. I read papers online much faster online than in print because I read less. And I almost never just come across some great story.

I get the NYT print edition on Sunday, and give myself the week to read it.

One Womans Thoughts said...

There are many of us still in existence. Lovers of printed newspapers and real books in hand.

Online reading has it's place. But when I want to enjoy and really am serious about what I read, there is no substitute for the material in hand. Take me to a library or bookstore and I am almost salivating at the pleasure.

life_of_a_fool said...

I am trying to wean myself from a print paper, but I'm really really conflicted. I haven't gotten in the habit of reading the paper online. I hate recycling daily papers, and sometimes I fear I spend too much time reading them. But without them, I tend not to read them at all (unless I'm looking for something specific). And while I hate the mega-corporations running most papers today, I also hate the idea of the whole print newspaper industry going under. I can't figure out what to do!