Recently I read The Rebellion Within by Lawrence Wright, a long, erudite, immensely informative New Yorker piece about the internal dynamics of Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Jihad: Who are these people, anyhow, where did they come from, and where are they going? I entirely recommend it. There’s a problem, though: I read it on-line.

A high proportion of my reading time these days, both business and pleasure, is spent reading the Internet. But we still subscribe to The Economist and, whenever I’m about to get on a plane, I try to pick up a copy of the New Yorker; its articles are mostly very good, and usually there are one or two which are long and meaty; just the thing for an airplane ride.

The problem was, on a recent trip, that I glanced at the cover of the latest, bought it there at the airport, and discovered only after I was airborne that the big meaty piece was that radical-Islamist story.

Lacking alternatives, I read most of it again anyhow once my laptop battery was juiced out. The experience, on paper, was immensely better. This is not to diss the New Yorker’s online presentation, as good as any there is; the column width is about perfect, and the cartoons are inlined artfully in a way that doesn’t impede the flow of reading.

But for now, paper’s just way better for this sort of long-form piece. Maybe that’ll change. I’m not sure what I’m actually going to do about this; I’ll hardly pass up a juicy link that I have time to follow just because it’s also on sale in print.

It’s just that there’s part of me that wishes that the online and print worlds were perhaps a bit more cleanly separated.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Eric (Jun 05 2008, at 22:56)

I work for an email marketing company. On the business side. I love reading on paper.


From: John Cowan (Jun 06 2008, at 08:16)

One of the advantages of *not* working at home is being able to easily print stuff like this (recycling it afterwards, of course). The 'print' command on my home system is a script that takes URLs from the arguments or stdin and mails them to my corporate mail address, so I can print them when I'm there. (I suppose I could enhance it to accept file names too, stashing them on a handy FTP server.)


From: Scott Mace (Jun 06 2008, at 08:56)

Here in Berkeley we have a local newspaper, the Berkeley Daily Planet, which over time has become a weekly -- but the name was too good to give up. Anyway, they just switched from twice a week to once a week and when they did that, they began running some content on the Web more or less every day, often before it appears in print, with no way of knowing what content is Web-only. Also, there's no RSS feed. So I pretty much avoid the Web site and read the dead-tree edition only. I hope I'm not missing much that way!


From: David Smith (Jun 06 2008, at 10:41)

I wonder if it's really the paper, or if it's the laptop...I'm rather hoping that as the "e-book" platform matures e-readers will not only become no-brainer-affordable, but will also find the right ergonomics. I just don't think that a laptop with keyboard and/or pointer substitute is the right reading environment. Of course, it might just be screen resolution. You're a lot younger than I, but it might just be a "mature eyes" thing.


From: Nicola Larosa (Jun 07 2008, at 07:48)

I don't agree. I've read whole books on LCD screens without problems. We should also be cutting a lot less trees, ASAP.

> The experience, on paper, was immensely better.

> ...

> But for now, paper’s just way better for this sort of long-form piece.

It's strange that you don't even try to say *why* you think this is the case.


From: Dave A (Jun 08 2008, at 04:12)

A friend of mine (who's a graphic designer) and I did some quick calculations and figured that the legibility (resolution and contrast) of print is roughly 5 to 6 times higher than what we see on screen.


From: John Turnbull (Jun 11 2008, at 17:49)

Hold a magnifying glass to your screen and look at the descender on a "y". Do the same with a book. (I highly recommend "XQuery" by Priscilla Walmsley for this and other virtues.) No contest.

But screen res will catch up.

Lawrence Wright's "The Looming Towers" is the best history of the worst guys.


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