Have your reading habits changed?

Hi Writers,
Thanks to everyone who chimed in on my previous post about the gray areas of publishing your creative writing online.

One thing that seems to come up over and over again is this:
Will people pay for print versions of what they can get online for free?
I think this is a really important topic for writers to think about, since the whole world seems to be going online.

I can tell you that corporate types are encouraging editor types to get as much “content” (I hate that word) as possible online. The current thinking: putting content online is like free advertising and people will pay for print versions of what they’re able to get for free online.

I don’t necessarily believe this and was wondering about other writers’ opinions on this important topic. I’ve seen how quickly and dramatically my own reading habits have changed over the past five years. I was previously a daily subscriber to my city newspaper, now I bypass the city paper entirely and read the The New York Times online daily. I’ve failed to renew many magazine subscriptions when I know I can read the full contents online for free. So I have my doubts about this theory, but maybe I’m wrong.

What about you? Do you buy less print (magazines, newspapers, books) than you did five years ago? Here’s a yes or no poll, so cast your vote and don’t forget to drop a comment. I’ll follow up with the results next Tuesday.

Keep Writing,

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13 thoughts on “Have your reading habits changed?

  1. Richard

    I read a lot online, mainly news stories and most stuff I skim. I find the internet cheapens most writing. I wouldn’t read something online that I intended to read in print form. I even prefer to edit my own writing on paper than on screen. I’ve tried eBooks and given up a short way in. And I get really irritated when software manuals come on CD!

    It just isn’t the same for me. Digesting something properly and skimming through something on-screen are totally seperate experiences.

  2. Jordan

    If the internet is destined to replace magazines and books, then I will be among the few who refuse to be parted from their print copies–who will seem sorely behind the times, an iconoclast who couldn’t keep up with the pace of technology.

    I’m less interested in free and more interested in quality that I can pick up with my hands and pages I can flip.

  3. magazine lover

    I really love reading in prints but due to my workload that requires me to be online for 10 hours, I can find no time to read more my favorite magz. well.. I still have a couple of subscriptions on fashion, cooking and business and I read them once in a while…

  4. becky

    I still buy just as much offline. My job requires me to be on the computer — and online — all day long. So when I want to read for pleasure, I want a book or magazine in my hand. And I don’t need internet access to read them either. Which means I can read them in the cafe, on the bus, or at the park. I’m a tactile person. I love having something in front of me. My burgeoning bookshelves prove this. 🙂

  5. : Donna

    I, for one, will search online for certain information when I’m not in a bookstore/library, or if I can’t find the info I need in print. I’m broke so anything that’s free, I will take; if it’s legally free, I’m not doing anything wrong. Broke or not–if the periodical charges some kind of fee online, I totally agree with that reasoning. When periodicals/newspapers put up online for FREE, articles that are also in print, they are, I think, creating an ultimate decrease in sales. To me, they should be doing the same as is done with books: only putting tantalizing excerpts or generally informative summaries online if it’s out there for free. Full articles shouldn’t be available without a fee, but when they are, I will take full advantage of them.

    There’s also the issue of copyright and unscrupulous people constantly using that material online. If a site doesn’t have the kind of protection that prevents people from clicking and copying, it’s just that easy to copy it and use it. I’m sure it’s a very rare thing when a writer finds out his/her work has been plagiarized or literally stolen in complete content, yet it happens all the time. The internet has made that a VERY easy thing to do for those who truly have no scruples (excellent newsletter from http://www.writing-world.com on this).

    Of course, there are online magazines that pay their writers and are compensated solely by the advertising on their sites. That’s a different story, and it’s up to those running the sites to make those decisions.

    Personally, I’ve never understood putting certain writing/work up online for free without compensation because writing is generally a time-consuming endeavor, takes talent, intelligence and often a LOT of research. When I was younger, writing was a hobby and there was no thought/intent to do it for a living, so sharing that writing with others had no consequence. Now that it’s my pursuit, and the writing I do is much more refined and has much greater purpose, I LOOK and NEED to be paid for that work. Actual pieces of work: articles, novels, short stories, etc. are things that, if there’s a venue, I want to be paid for my time. Time = life, and life is precious. We are not plumbers doing a favor by fixing a pipe for the world of people on the internet; they are not our relatives or next door neighbors, and you can bet — a plumber WILL charge a LOT for their time!

    Yes, there are a lot of things we write that are solely for the purpose of expressing ourselves, like the people who blog. We write here, we write in book clubs, we write all over the place, but what I’m referring to is the kind of work that should have a dollar value.

    I, for one, will never put any of that kind of work up on the internet. I don’t want the problems that come with it, so having to worry about online copyrights won’t be an issue for me.

    I really do NOT enjoy reading a lot online (and I spend SO many hours doing so because it’s not for things I can find in print, like this blog). If something is available in print, I will always turn to the printed page and books for the rest of my life. I will often get books from the public library, and I only buy magazines and books that I really have to own, not "rent" or borrow. I’m addicted to them and there’s nothing like having a book in hand. I only wish I wasn’t physically sensitive to the print and paper, having to offgas most of them before I can be near them. Even so — the printed page is my choice when I have one.

    Anyway, that’s how I see it. Writers in general, need to know what writing to place monetary value on and not settle for less, and if writers simply have the need to be read by "the world" and have no desire to be paid, that’s their choice.

    So, yes, I do see the detriment in the ways I explained.
    : Donna

  6. Sera Phyn

    This is a topic that has been under debate for a while in various forms. Personally, it varies whether or not I would buy something that I could get for free online. If it were a book, I would probably buy it, but only because I don’t have one of those nifty electronic readers. However, articles and print publications like magazines and newspapers? I haven’t bought one in years. Only the ones that I can’t get full access to for free would I consider purchasing in hard copy.

    That being said, I wanted to bring up an idea J.A. Konrath explained in his blog. Most people are able to offer free content online because of advertising. This is how many companies make their money, sometimes on an exclusive basis. What he proposes is that, in the future, all books will be available online in e-book format and funded by ads that will appear in the front or back of the book. Or, in high paying cases, product placement will be worked into the book itself. I think that this is almost inevitable with the way things are going, but it might not be so bad, either. Artists still get paid for their work, companies get their name out there, and people get free literature.

  7. Margay

    I’m an old-fashioned girl at heart. Although I do read more online content these days – mostly in the form of blogs – I still prefer to hold the things I read in my hands and turn pages. The only thing I don’t like is newsprint (never have), but I get my news fix either on tv or news websites.

  8. John Pupo

    Thinking a bit on the issue, I do think that it could become a major problem for certain types of magazines. For mags like Cosmo, Rolling Stone, even Women’s Day for instance… they are popular magazines, and a lot of their readers are online. If they were able to get the magazines for free online I’m sure they’d take advantadge of it. We have to remember (unfortunately) that the general public don’t always read for an intellectual stimulus, they read for some form of entertainment. With the price of everything going up, if something is free, then why not seize the opportunity?

    However, I think if we are talking trade and literary magazines, I don’t think they have to be completely worried about the internet. They have a niche base, who would stay devoted to it. Also, magazines that are doing free online versions could still end up paying writers what they are now, their shift from print to online can cut some costs, and they can still charge advertisers the same amt for ad space…

    Just my thought…

  9. Todd

    This whole "online" thing seems to be making a mountain out of a molehill since people have been getting "free" access to books and other materials for years through our Library system. Certainly the Internet is a more "instant" and possibly more "available" medium since a lot of us sit in front of a computer for 8+ hours a day now but despite that I think the published copy will always win out since it is more portable and just plain easier to use. I’m a bit of an aberration to your survey question since I didn’t have nearly the desire to read (or write) five years ago that I do today. I guess it touches on whether we truly want to get paid (and be "professional") for writing or just get the gratification of having people read our work (which is what blogging can provide in droves).

  10. Debra M. Rolon


    I totally agree with you that people will not pay for what they can get for free, I wouldn’t. If it’s free then it’s free!

    I also feel that people who are serious about their craft as writers and plan on writing as a career should realize that viewing this way, is a business. People don’t generally go into business for free. I also feel that writing is an art form and a craft that deserves respect, so giving it away for free degrades the hard work writers do.

    I think initially, the Internet served a good purpose to businesses as a supplement to their "land" operations, however with anyone and everyone making use of the Internet things have gotten out of hand and some businesses have lost focus and have let people decide what they should pay and not pay for. For writers this can be deadly.

    I am starting my own online magazine and forum, for which people will have to pay a monthly access fee. My reason is simple, I am a writer who is providing information and services that require dedication and hard work. I value my work and people who see value in your work are willing to pay for it. It’s how we show respect for another’s work. Just because it’s online doesn’t change things. And just because others are giving theirs away for free, doesn’t mean I need to follow suit.

    Lastly, I think the writing community, those who are serious about their craft, need to band together on this issue so that we can preserve the integrity of our profession and separate ourselves from those who view the Internet as a free-for-all.

    I’ll keep writing if you will,


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