Why Subscribe to Print Magazines?

Although you can't really say that online publications have completely taken over the serial market, it's fair to say that the inroads towards fully electronic availability of publications are deep and sprawling. Recently, the final print issue of the moderately venerable publication InfoWorld contained an interesting article regarding the the environmental damages caused by the world of paper production.

Magazines and newspapers have long been amongst the chief users of paper, producing publications which are, sadly, frequently produced with the expectation that most copies will be discarded within the month.

The reason that this subject comes to mind right now is because I've been tagged in a meme currently circulating in the web development community which asks participants about the print magazines they subscribe to.

I was tagged (or invited to participate) by Miriam Loraditch, one of the proprietors of Solas Web Design and an avid birder and environmentalist. In her own post, she states:

The question this puts to us, then, I believe, is whether there is anything that could possibly be important enough to print in a magazine or catalogue that would justify the loss of the boreal forest and the birds that depend on it for their lives. For me, the answer to this question is an obvious one, but each of us has to reckon with the consequences of our choices in our own way.

This isn't to say that online publications are entirely void of environmental irresponsibility, and I'm not prepared to make a scientific comparison between the environmental expenses of physical publishing and online publishing.

However, I'm not willing to commit both sins.

So, for me, the answer is one. In point of fact, there is one magazine which makes it's way to my door — a gift subscription. One can't easily prevent the offering of gifts; but it is a reasonable and responsible solution to request they be given in an alternate manner. Many publications have an online subscription option; ask the gift giver to provide you with that online subscription instead.

Magazines are, in fact, a place where a single individual can make a huge impact on the world. By making the shift from six magazine subscriptions to zero, you can conceivably make a change to the number of pages of paper used and shipped across the country which numbers well into the thousands. If you imagine a single weekly publication of 100 pages, for example, you've already accomplished the savings of 5,000 sheets of paper. This is a worthwhile accomplishment. Every bit counts.

In the long run, however, quality news depends on a strong, paying subscriber base. Don't scoff at paying a fee for a quality online news source -- yes, you can probably get information online for free. But this ultimately leads to a cascade failure: if no organization can afford to get direct news, nobody will report it.

Updated by Joe Dolson on 24 August, 2009

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Traveling by bicycle (or other self-powered vehicles) is an excellent way of combining a need for daily exercise with saving fossil fuels in your transport. What do you consider a reasonable bicycle commute? (One way.)

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