Why we love print in a digital world
There is joy in reading a magazine or book that is hard to explain, but easy to experience. As we get more and more of our information on-screen, we also become aware of the pitfalls. With ads popping up, links begging to be clicked, and beeps alerting when messages arriving in the background, it’s hard to relax and focus when we’re on-screen.
Print is different. Print is more romantic. Print is more intentional. There’s the anticipation when you buy a book and carry it home. Or when you’re checking the mailbox every day to see whether the latest edition of a favorite magazine has arrived. Your heart jumps when you find the envelope in the mailbox. Unlike a web article that you’ll forget if you don’t read it immediately, the magazine will be there, waiting for you. And that means you can look forward. The anticipation is part of the enjoyment. There is no rush.
When you have a quiet moment, you brew a cup of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate (my favorite). While you prepare, your anticipation goes up even more. When you sit down to read, it’s a special moment. You open the magazine. The paper is illuminated by a favorite light. The atmosphere is calm and relaxing, not the flickering of a screen. You’ve got a choice: Leaf through the magazine to choose which story you want to read first, or just start at the beginning. You notice the resolution of the images—much higher than what on-screen publications can offer due to bandwidth limitations. And the colors have been carefully corrected to be truly life-like. The difference is subtle, but you instinctively notice.
Then you start reading. There’s nothing to distract you. It’s like a good bike ride: you and the story. If you don’t have much time, you can read only part of the article, leaving the rest for later. It’ll be there, waiting. No need to bookmark a web page (which, unlike a real bookmark, is easily overlooked unless you are much more organized than most of us). I often read a favorite magazine over dozens of short breaks during busy times—each installment is enjoyable and memorable. It’s the opposite of doomscrolling.
Of course, all this makes sense only if print is really good. These days, print has to earn its right to be special. There’s a reason why most communications are on-screen today. A paper phone book just doesn’t make sense any longer. The ephemeral news of the day, like the latest on whether the Jumbo-Visma team will change sponsors next year, are probably best consumed online—and then quickly forgotten. The question of paper vs. screen is not ‘either or.’ The answer is ‘both’ —each where it works best.
Print is great for long-form stories that draw you in and take you to a different time and place. That’s the focus of Bicycle Quarterly. Print’s permanence means that editing has to be completed before going to print. It’s not like we can change the magazine once it’s out there. That means we work twice as hard to get it right the first time. (We can, and sometimes do, print corrections.)
Print is permanent, so it’s great for things you’ll read again and again. With print, you don’t need to keep your subscription current to refer back to old stories. They are yours to keep. They are there for future generations, too. In fact, some of my most prized possessions are French mid-century cyclotouring magazines. The tales (and grainy photos) of gravel rides and adventures in the mountains have inspired us. Maybe Bicycle Quarterly will inspire future generations to ride into the moutains under a full moon.
Bicycle Quarterly is financed by our subscribers. You, and not advertisers, are the reason the magazine exists. The articles are what you pay for, so they had better be good. We’re working with cyclists who have real stories to tell. Abdullah Zeinab’s incredible win in the Rhino Run bikepacking race, by just 16 minutes, after traversing not just one, but two deserts in southern Africa. Eleven-year old Futo Togashi’s dream of riding 3,000 km across the length of Japan on a classic cyclotouring bike, inspired by a 1970s Manga cartoon. These are fascinating exploits, and, as editors, we’re making sure we do them justice. (We can fix grammar and spelling, but not a lack of inspiration.)
With all our communications, we’re very intentional what we present. Our social media contents is intended for quick consumption—a few seconds, a smile that brightens your day, and you move on. Our online Journal is more in-depth. We expand on one idea and hope to give you something to think about for a little while. Bicycle Quarterly and our books are at the top of this pyramid. They are intended to be enjoyed for a long time, often read and re-read many times. With our print offerings, we invite you to a different world, where you join us for extraordinary experiences.
If you’re curious about Bicycle Quarterly, we’re preparing another mailing of the latest edition this week. Subscribe today, and you’ll get your magazine in time for the holidays. (U.S. addresses, international mail may take longer.) With 108 pages of adventures and articles, illustrated with professional photos, you’ll enjoy reading and browsing for many hours.