Why I still read print magazines and books

By , January 12, 2015 6:25 am

It became more apparent to me, how much magazines are struggling, when I saw this blurb in the January/February issue of Runner’s World:


I was actually confused when I got the issue – confused that it was a two-month issue. I had recalled them printing every month. So that explained it.

That blurb made me feel disappointed (and it made me laugh – I always feel like an impostor reading Running Times since I am not “competitive” or a “front-of-the-pack” runner) – first, that they were shifting their focus more toward online content (which I struggle to read), and second, that they are really cutting back even more on my favorite running magazine, Running Times.

I realize it’s odd that I have an aversion to reading articles from a magazine online, since I read so many blogs and other news stories also, online. But, the ones I can pay attention to, all the way through, are on the shorter side. There’s just something about magazine articles (and books) that makes me lose focus.

I’m currently reading Michael Harris’s The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection, and highlighting the hell out of it. Right away, two blurbs in the beginning of the book gave me some insight as to why I struggle with longer online content:



(apologies for these being out of context)

To Manguel’s point – yes, I do feel like I “speed” through digital text with urgency. There is so much of it – and for that I am grateful – but I also have that “NEED TO READ ALL THE THINGZ!!!” feeling, which, yes, makes me want to rush, from one thing, to the next. What am I missing out on while I am reading this right now?! Hurry and go find out!

Carr’s paragraph is really out of context, but in that section of the book, Harris is discussing how our minds are constantly adapting, changing, and molding to the world/stimuli around us. So, our brains have been taught to absorb online content differently than a “real” book or magazine. As Carr says, we absorb information less effectively, skip to the bottom of paragraphs, and are constantly shifting focus. Yeah… that definitely describes my online reading habits, from time to time!

I honestly did wonder why I lose focus on longer online articles and books so much before, and reading those two blurbs helped me understand it. I am not sure if it’s something I want to “fix” though! I just tend to get more out of something I can physically hold, dog ear, highlight, make notes on, put down and come back to… The content sticks with me longer when I read something that way. It’s completely fantastic to have some much information online for reference, but it just doesn’t “stick” as well as when I read it in hard print.

And I am not even getting in to the “feel” of reading something. A magazine or book feels warmer to me that reading something online. And look at online articles – if you are reading on the website and not in some rss aggregator that filters out all the ads and links to other articles, it feels so busy, and spammy! Of course, the rss aggregator feels cold and sterile (but that helps me focus, more).

So… I will continue to read magazine and books, even though they seem to be dying out, and even though all of that content is eventually online (and usually, for free!).

Do you still subscribe to magazines? Do you feel like you rush through online articles, or skip around the content while you are reading them, and lose focus?

37 Responses to “Why I still read print magazines and books”

  1. Agree Agree Agree! I like reading print magazines and books much more than online or even on a screen. Plus the thrill of getting the magazines in the mail will never get old. I like cutting pages out and sticking them places to inspire or remind me. Those are all things that you can’t do with online sources. I do glance at articles online, but mostly news articles where I don’t have any desire to read it word-for-word. Thanks for the insight!

    • kilax says:

      Ahh, yes! Around that time of the month (snicker) I am checking the mail watching for my new issues! And then I kind of flip through them then decide if I want to read cover to cover or skip around. And… you can’t really do that online, you are right.

      I did just think of something else disappointing though – how so many mags (especially Runner’s World) are making the print copies more busy and scattered like how you feel online. Have you noticed that with any of yours? It’s like they constantly want us to be distracted. I like pictures, that’s for sure, but I don’t need arrows and TONS of pop out text all over the page.

  2. I have been all digital for more than 20 years, so it isn’t a change for me, really. But that said, I have read and recognize that studies show how differently we absorb content, and while reading casual stuff I don’t care that much, when it is more important stuff I really want to be sure I am absorbing things. One thing I do is read more on my Kindle paper white … That at if an email or text or whatever other alert comes in I don’t see it and get distracted like on my phone or tablet 🙂

    • kilax says:

      That is a really good idea with your Kindle! So you can still get “lost” in it, like you would with a hard copy book! I don’t have an e-reader, and often wonder if I’d like it! I think I would miss highlighting pages and flipping around.

      • Personally it works for *me*, but again, I was reading books on portable electronic devices before the word ‘ebook’ existed, so I am not a good measure 😉 I have seen research that people engage differently with ebooks.

        But a Kindle can be had for ~$50 or so, and loads of books go on sale through Amazon all the time (and if you have Prime anyway you can borrow some as well) … so it might be worth a shot.

  3. Chaitali says:

    I actually feel like I’ve gotten to the point where I focus better on online text since so much of the content I need to read for work is online these days. Paper reading is almost always for recreation for me.

    • kilax says:

      What has helped you with that? Sometimes I have to read really long reports on my computer for work, and I take notes (well, I am marking them up anyway) as I go along, to stay focused. I could print them, but don’t want to waste the paper!

      • Chaitali says:

        I used to print everything but felt bad about wasting the paper. I generally highlight and make comments in the electronic document itself. If it’s a format which doesn’t allow for that I’ll open a Word document side by side so I can make notes and comments there. I feel like that helps keep me engaged.

  4. Kiersten says:

    This is the debate I am having about my textbooks. We are going to new Zealand for 3 weeks and I don’t want to lug 500 lbs of books, so it would be nice to have ebooks. But I feel like I don’t learn as well when I read off a screen, and this confirms it.

    • kilax says:

      Ugh. That is a pickle! Maybe bring the one you know you need to work on the most and the ebook versions for the others? Do you have hard and e-version for all?

      • Kiersten says:

        No unfortunately you have to buy one or the other and at $100 plus each I wasn’t willing to buy both. So it was either buy te hard copies and lug them on the honeymoon, or be stuck with the ebook all semester. I went with the real books. I will try to work ahead so I only have to bring 1 of the 3 books.

  5. I was quite surprised by RW/RT’s announcements about reducing print runs. I knew last year was tough on the running industry, but I was REALLY surprised that it hit RT that hard — and even hit RW enough to reduce to 11 issues from 12. Though I suppose RT has less mass appeal to the entire running market as RW (though, as a non-competitive runner, I’ve found RT to be just as useful of a resource for me as RW. I don’t mimic the training programs followed by those RT highlights, but there’s a lot of really good information in there nevertheless), so maybe last year hit them harder than RW.

    Anyway. I’m a bit old school when it comes to reading material: I prefer to read hard copies of books, magazines, newspapers, etc. than reading a digital copy (though if something interesting is available exclusively online, that won’t stop me from reading it. I’ve spent plenty of time on BuzzFeed and WordPress’s long reads!). I was talking about this with my family when I was home for Christmas, and I worry that a shift away from printing and towards digital only (whether that’s online or via Kindle, iPad, etc.) could cheapen reading material in general. One of my coworker’s kids, for example, has all of their textbooks on their iPad (the school’s decision, not the kid’s). While on the one hand I would’ve LOVED that as a middle schooler (our history books were HEAVY), I also think I would’ve had a lot less “respect” for the book–and, I think by extension, the material in it–by having it as just one more app on the same device where I played Candy Crush. You know? Not to mention that I generally find reading on a device more inconvenient than reading an actual thing (like when you’re reading along and think, “Wait! Didn’t something like this come up earlier?” and then you thumb through the pages to find where that something was — I find that much more challenging on a device).

    • kilax says:

      Yeah, I think it does make sense that RT was hit harder, even though it seems to have more useful information, overall. Ha ha. I like its human interest stories better, from time to time, too. And the style of writing. Anyway. Super bummed about it.

      Even newspapers?! Now I am impressed! I went all digital there. Because then I actually read it (and don’t have ink all over my fingers, ha ha!).

      I agree that only digital textbooks is setting kids up to respect it less, and really, to be more distracted. Why read, when you can play a game? I mean, in theory, it would teach them discipline, but it’s really just teaching them to multitask, which we know no one can actually do, well! And how does cross referencing work in that respect? Maybe you can highlight a word and click it and it goes to the dictionary? Then back to that page? That would be nice, but who knows!

  6. Bari says:

    There’s something about cracking the spine of a brand new book. Even my 17 yo son is hooked on books – the real thing. He received a couple new ones at our 2nd Christmas yesterday and even brought one over to me saying, “Smell mom – there’s nothing like that new book smell.” Made me laugh.

  7. SUCH a great post. 1. I HATE the new design of Runner’s World. It’s like Reading for Dummies, and I find it offensive. 2. I HATE that print media is dying out! I can only read so much on my Kindle before my eyes start rolling around. Once I switch back to print on actual paper, problem solved.

  8. Karen says:

    I do enjoy getting a magazine and going through it, I tend to digest the material a little better. I have an old Kindle and I enjoy reading on that, but computer reading gets old I don’t like scrolling.
    It seems like not being able to keep up with the pack is surrounding me lately.

    • kilax says:

      Oh no! What do you mean about not keeping up with the pack? 🙁

      • Karen says:

        The little blurb about how it’s going focus on front of the pack runners.
        The running team I tried to join with is all about speediness too…it’s just not a great fit for me.
        I will always kind of be toward the back, but I still move along 😉

        • kilax says:

          Ahh, that blurb was talking about how Running Times (not Runner’s World) focuses on front of pack. And you know what? I read both. I will never be front of pack, but I think there are training ideologies that can be shared! 🙂 Do you think you will look for a group more your speed? Or keep running with the buddies you made in the group? 🙂

          • Karen says:

            If I find out this week, I have no reason to take any more time off, I am going to go to the team training one more time and see if maybe my buddy wants to run around my area or hers so we won’t have the route confusion factor on our longest runs 🙂

  9. Amy says:

    I agree with you – two completely different reading experiences. I still prefer real books and magazines to online, too.

  10. Pete B says:

    I don’t have an e-reader, so the few books I do read a year are all paper. That said, when I read a paper newspaper I miss hyperlinks when I want to find out more info on a topic discussed in an article! 🙂

    • kilax says:

      Ha! Funny point about the newspaper! When I read articles online, I often do side research too. So it seems I do prefer digital news. 😉

  11. jan says:

    I still prefer reading books & articles online (although books on my Kindle is fine for some reason??). I too tend to skim a lot when reading articles online.

    I had no idea until your post that RT & RW are “sisters”. Huh. Too bad about them cutting back. How long till they’re just GONE in print form?

    • kilax says:

      You prefer print (you wrote online but the context makes me think print ;)). Does your school still have real textbooks?

      Yeah! Gone or joined together?! Ugh!

      • jan says:

        Oh right I meant print!! Sorry! At school we have mostly real textbooks but some classes are just doing without textbooks…for example in my class (English) we don’t use a book but that is more because of the nature of the subject than anything.

  12. Marcia says:

    You have voiced my feelings exactly! I still subscribe to a ton of mags and read zero online. I even get a Sunday newspaper. I just like the feel of it. Of paging through. I just happened to check the expiration dates on my RW and RT mags and noticed they didn’t lapse until some ridiculous date far in the future. That explains it. I begin to wonder if they’ll even remain in print that long?

  13. Michelle says:

    I love the feeling of a new magazine…it’s almost a sickness, and as I looked at my stacks and stacks of fitness, running, food and wine mags just last week I realized I need to probably purge. I subscribed to a digital mag ONCE. And I hate it. 🙁

  14. I think I will always love print media – there’s something about sitting down with a magazine or book and holding it. I think it’s easier to get distracted with digital media since the rest of the web is at your fingertips and a text or alert can interrupt you. I think digital media may lessen the quality of the articles – promoting a “get it out there quick” attitude rather than really putting thought into something. I’m much more likely to be in for the long haul on a multi-page article in a magazine than scrolling through text on a screen.

    If the newspaper ever goes away, I might cry.

    I will sound like a hypocrite when I say this, but I got a Kindle for Christmas and I love it. I mainly wanted it because I wanted to read more books, but I don’t have the space to keep books I buy! (NYC problems…also, whenever I wanted a book from the library, I had to wait at least a month, meh.) I don’t think I’ll stop reading paper books, but it is really nice for space saving purposes.

    • kilax says:

      Oh gosh, yes. The quality is SO poor. Steven and I have really noticed it, especially with the news (which is odd, cause there’s always been a sense of urgency to that!).

      I don’t think you are a hypocrite. I am curious about the Kindle. My main worry with that is how to I mark up pages? Is there a way to take notes? And is that one that is only for reading books and not email and so on?

  15. Mica says:

    I got a subscription to both RW and RT when I joined the running club, and I’m finishing up a subscription to “the Atlantic” and also to “Martha Stewart Living.” I definitely thought I’d read The Atlantic cover-to-cover, but that was causing me a lot of stress. I was, like, FIVE issues behind since I was doing other things, like reading books and knitting and uh, not reading. I started a system where I’ll go through and dog-ear the pages of the articles that look interesting, so when I have a few minutes to pick up a magazine, I can go straight to the content that interests me. I was feeling guilty not reading each and every article, but at this point, it’s really a sunk-cost deal, and I won’t probably get much benefit out of reading an article that I don’t care about (ESPECIALLY in running magazines. I did not read RW’s article about printed tights for ladies. Gag me.).

    To get through some reading, I’ve also been getting out earlier for my run so I can have about 30 minutes before I leave for work. I try to make it Internet-free time, so I catch up on magazine articles or read a book. It’s very calming, and it makes me glad I have printed material to consume. (Then once something is does, I’m aggressive about recycling it so I don’t get a pile on the coffee table.)

    Oh man, this turned into such a long comment, sorry!

    • kilax says:

      What is The Atlantic like? Is it news or stories or what? I often feel like I need to read a magazine cover to cover too, and feel guilty for not. But… like the tights article… every article is not for everyone! Ha ha! I think that you are reading a bit in the am instead of getting right online! Did I tell you about how I listened to two podcasts that both happened to be talking about starting your day off intentionally and not letting someone else’s agenda (which you would see by looking at the netz) “hijack” your day? It was a bit too “healthy blogger obvious tip” to me, but made me realize it is important to start your day off in a way that works for you. And I realized for me that is getting up and going – usually right to working out, or to work.

      No worries! I love your long comments!

  16. Ian says:

    Love how we are all commenting about reading paper magazine on a net blog!!

    I too get RW. Not been a fan for years, they seems to just recycle the same stories year after year. But occasionally something worth while is tossed in so the sub works out cheaper in the long run (hmm pun?). Not liking the new format though but have two years left on my sub (they gave me a deal).

    Other magazines I do sub to are Ultrarunning, Trailrunner and Outside. Used to get many more but due to school (and those over priced text books someone else mentioned) not enough time to read so dropped many when subs expired.

    • kilax says:

      Ha ha, yeah! I would probably discuss it with you in person, if we were together (I have a bit with friends). I like to bring the discussion here, too 🙂

      Yes, they totally recycle. The only stories I seem to like are human interest, and even then, I hate the way they jump around in the timeline when telling the story. Ha ha.

      I have checked all of those out! I liked that Trailruner (I think?) was so personal story based 🙂

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