The digital age has reached, and is impacting and changing, one of mankind’s most popular past times – reading magazines. There has always been a plethora of magazine titles to choose from, whatever your age, interests and politics. With the advent of laptop computers, smart phones, tablets and ereaders, the paper and ink versions of our popular magazines may soon be a thing of the past. What is the greener option – paper magazines or online? Can the green option save you money as well as the environment?
An interesting statistic relating to this question is that, while online audiences are growing in number, the circulation of printed newspapers and magazines is heading in the opposite direction. Why are people abandoning their favorite newspapers and mags in favor of digital versions? Are printed magazines going to disappear forever?
A thought provoking finding came out of a study conducted earlier this year at the University of Oregon by Arthur D. Santana, Randall Livingstone and Yoon Cho. The study consisted of two groups; one read the New York Times in print form while the other read the same edition of Web-Times. After twenty minutes reading time, all readers completed a short survey. The results showed that the print readers remembered “significantly more” stories as well as topics than their online reader counterparts. Maybe printed media has a place and won’t ever completely disappear after all!
But what about the green credentials of both types of magazines – the printed versions require a huge input of time, resources and energy to produce, print and deliver the magazines to newsstands and consumers. Paper used in magazines is mostly sourced from virgin wood pulp so that means a lot of trees are sacrificed so we can read our favorite magazine. Magazines are usually printed on glossy or semi-glossy paper which is more costly to produce than newsprint and doesn’t break down as easily as newspaper does; it is also often not recyclable. This means that magazines create a problem in landfill when they have been discarded.
Online magazines cost a fraction to produce and have none of the negative environmental impact of the printed versions. No paper or ink is needed; the required resources are almost nil and so is the energy used to get the magazine out to its readers. Of course, the end user needs to power up their computer or other electronic device to read the magazine but this amount of energy is miniscule by comparison to what is used in the production of the printed version. When an online magazine is no longer needed, it can be deleted with the click of a button, with no impact on the environment at all. An online publication will never clog up any landfill; they have a very small environmental footprint.
In recent years several well-known magazine companies have decided to duplicate all or part of the content of their paper magazines online. This has been largely consumer-driven as more people acquire hand-held devices on which they can read books, articles and news stories.
So, it’s rather obvious that online magazines are hands down the greener option when compared to printed magazines. So, will you also save money if you opt for the greener choice? Publishers are providing online magazines for readers at a fraction of the cost of buying a magazine at a newsstand; some are even free. You can get a free trial of the online magazine of your choice and then either pay a subscription or pay per copy you download. Both these options are considerably cheaper than the print versions of the same magazine.
But will online reading really completely replace print? Many people agree that there is nothing like flicking through a magazine, admiring the glossy pictures. Magazines have always been a kind of luxury item, making them a bit special; perhaps the online versions won’t be able to fully match this experience. So maybe the two formats will be able to peacefully co-exist, a solution for whatever takes the individual’s fancy at the time.
What do you think? Will the coexist? What do you prefer to read?