online vs. onpaper – the pros and cons

Posted on: 1 October 2008

Making lists now of pros and cons of online vs. onpaper infotainment (for lack of better wording). Based on my own, highly personal preferences and how to make choices easier.


  • enormous availability of information both content and flavourwise
  • especially personality of blogs, highly personal views to be found, are brilliant
  • I guess some of the individual quirkyness (or creativity) of some bloggers, both in style and choice of topics, gets lost when writers work in a social environment such as an editing room – and the quirkyness is what I like, what makes it real to me. I guess I like the writing I find online better than what I find onpaper. Think of brainstorming, how that’s supposed to stimulate creativity, whereas in reality it hinders it (sorry, I have no citation)
  • short step between reading and commenting and writing for self; huge creative stimulus/power
  • reading related material interweavingly, making connections for self
  • sense of taking part in online community of likeminded spirits, sense of connection
  • complete freedom of what to read, watch, write and think
  • complete freedom of how to read (in PJs, drinking, eating, spreading in time)
  • immediate sharing of gefundenes fressen with friends that might share interest in topic or flavour
  • cost: one price fits all. Simple decision, made once (a year): which provider etc. Automatic = invisible payment. It’s paid for, so the more I use it, the “cheaper” it feels.
  • impact on environment? electricity, production of PC?


  • mental energy needed is high, can be exhausting
  • meeting people online does not render the same energy as meeting people live; it can isolate me, thinking I dont need to meet real people (today)
  • bad for body, risking RSI, lower backpains, strained eyeballs or just getting fat and oxygen/view of green leaves deprived


  • nice feeling for fingers, leafing through paper
  • photography, especially of stars/glamorous people and fashion, is much more enjoyable in print
  • “portability” use wherever you want
  • when done, makes a nice give-away to a friend, neighbour, cotraveler etc. Hard to know if they’ll like it, though
  • or might keep it for self to do artsy stuff (when time, eg seldom)
  • low-tech, no electricity etc. needed
  • reading off of paper is easier on the eyes
  • can be done in more body positions, eg lying down
  • limited amount of information in any one magazine is easier on the mind; fewer choices to make.


  • annoying advertisments!
  • availability & cost: have to go out to newspaper stand to get one. How to choose which one? Have to affirm choice with payment. How many interesting articles or beautiful pics needed to justify expense? Impossible heuristic. Difficult decision.
  • later addition, while reading an Economist article through iGoogle: guilt trip looming for articles not read, risk of the mag littering my house with its guilt for months. This happened to me the few times I read the Economist. My English Writing class teacher taught us how the Economist’s writing is the best English writing around the world. I had a copy sitting accusatorily on my bedside table a coupla times after – before deciding never to be bullied into paying for a guilt trip.
  • impact on environment? paper, printing?

In short, the only thing I’ll go out and pay a price for, occasionally, is fashion/celeb mags such as InStyle. The more pics (and the less ads), the better . I’ll also look for shopping tips a la Mary Portas (trying to support the independent shopkeeper rather than highstreet chains), and styling tips. Note to self: ask styling queen friend how she keeps up on style. Having said that, I haven’t bought any mag since what seems like forever, it must be over a year. (I see why they need to have that many advertisements). As for subscriptions: the formula of any mag tends to bore me after two issues. With one exception: the formula where a guest editor is invited for every issue (such as Dutch mag LINDA has done successfully with Matthijs van Nieuwkerk, Dinand Woesthoff and Ruud Gullit). I did go out of my way to buy these – inspiring people sharing their inspiration, a brilliant idea. Oprah should copy back! (Linda can be seen as “inspired” by the Oprah mag).

I did get Mary Portas’ book (http://www.maryqueenofshops.com), by the way. I end up bying books, really selectively (post on my “Powershelf” is to follow), based on Google keyword searches, blogs and tips from friends. Mostly online, as a matter of fact.

On the ferry to Vancouver Island, I noticed most passengers used the newsstand as a library. Without any outward sign of embarrassment, the crew apparently not being bothered into saying something, at least six people stood in front of the racks leasurely, “just trying to decide!”, reading entire issues.

In the end, selection is key for me, and I can do that more effectively online.

I have been wondering about the USP of paper: portability – then again, when I am out there in the real world, why not take advantage and try and meet some real people? Or just sit and relax, do nothing? After all that intense online activity, I need some rest, too… And I can always grab one of the free newspapers on the train.

No, I guess I made up my mind that my eyeball time is very valuable, and most magazines should actually pay me to read their stuff, and comment on their selection and flavour of what goes on in the world. Lord knows I know how to comment!

PS Afterthought: something to do with fleeting vs. durable. Print should focus on things that you want to easily go back to, eg works of reference such as “How to” or works of lasting beauty, possibly somepetry or photography. Although for both latter ones, you could argue for a system to put stuff up on your wall, have a beautiful collection that you could easily shuffle around the walls of your house, some kind of one pic fits all frames. Because in the end, do you really leaf through those coffee table books? At all? Unless you had them in your bathroom? The durable aspect makes that a very small market, though. Hmm. Hope the electronic paper readers evolve quickly!


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