Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

The Luxury of Reading

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

The Luxury of Reading

Article excerpt

Over breakfast on a recent morning, I was suddenly visited with a strange sensation that I was living in the future. It was a future not too far off, to judge by the fact that my ugly refrigerator still needed to be replaced. But the newspaper before me, imprinted with everything from war news to recipes for grilled asparagus, for a moment seemed as quaint and antiquated as a carbon copy or a parchment It might as well have been an illuminated manuscript

Many people see a dire future for the newspaper, of course, but they are too quick to extend the same prognosis to all of print. Bedazzled by the Web, they forget that deep economic forces are also at work, affecting newspapers and other print media differently. The heyday of newspapers toward the end of the last century was made possible by the fact that many were enormously profitable local monopolies, charging captive advertisers dearly in order to deliver a product to readers that was priced well below its cost. It was a situation that could not last. In a sense, the Web merely happened to be the instrument of the newspapers' undoing. It allows readers to zero in on what they want, and advertisers to zero in on the consumers who have so conveniently sorted themselves by their interests. …

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