Read this, then close your browser and pick up a book!
The reason I read a paper magazine or book is for the time it gives me — for the space to think, reflect, pause, return, re-read, and so on until what’s on the page has morphed from an idea to something deeper.
Online, and even on a tablet, is a different experience. There’s a light in my face. There’s an urgency. It has no closure; there’s always another click, an eternal, forever, world-without-end-amen stream of data rushing, flowing, pounding, demanding, agitating.
Paper gets me away from that.
When all voices are equal, I have to listen to all voices. I can’t afford this mentally, emotionally or physically. When all data is available, I have to process all data. I’m not big enough.
Paper edits for me.
I once worked with a guy to make a hobby magazine in PDF. His content was 100% from a large online forum. I asked him why he’d do this — why he’d charge for the exact content that hobbyists could get for free online.
He said it’s because the forum is like a river; the water flows by and downstream and away. The magazine dips in and scoops some out, stopping it. It adds images, typography, visual rhythm and alters its environment, and in so doing it changes the experience by giving me space.
It’s an important quality that we can’t afford to lose, and my guess is that we won’t.
Yes, some paper publishing is for tradition or power or status quo or because it’s what we’re used to. These things will change. But the essential ways in which paper is truly superior, these are here to stay.
John McWade, founder and creative director of Before and After magazine