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Why I’m Ditching Apps and Returning to Print (Mostly)

Friday, 19 Oct 2012 | 11:48 AM ET

I'm going old school, and it's all because of cooking magazines. Explanation in a moment.

Timothy A Clary | AFP | Getty Images

Newsweek said this week it is ditching the print version of its magazine and shifting entirely to a digital version. It's been publishing the magazine for 80 years. (Read More:Stop the Presses: Newsweek Losing Print Edition.)

Yet after little more than a year of going entirely digital, I'm returning to print. As much as I can these days, anyway.

The reason? I'm not reading as much as I want to or used to.

When I first bought an Pad and checked out a few early digital versions of magazines it all seemed so clear: Stop killing trees Sullivan, end the clutter of recyclables and welcome in the twenty-first century.

Over the next year I let most all of my print subscriptions expire and moved almost entirely online. I felt hip and just a tad environmentally smug, with the promise of a constant flow of cool stuff right at my fingertips.

What's been good for the environment, though, has been bad for my brain and possibly my wallet. I've recently realized I'm consuming far less from my favorite publications, even while buying more. While a constant flow of information is at my fingertips, all my favorite magazines and one-off impulse buys are now buried inside apps on the cluttered real estate of my iPad and I'm simply forgetting they're there. While I am reading more random articles through apps such as Zite and Longform, the bigger topics I'm interested in are getting lost. (Read More: Here's What Microsoft's Tablet Has That Apple's iPad Doesn't.)

Back to the cooking mags.

I love to cook. While not very good at it, I subscribed to most cooking magazines because I wanted to get better, check out new restaurants and pretend I'm sophisticated. Earlier this week, I stumbled upon the latest print issue of one, dug in, ripped out some recipes to make my family suffer through, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Then I remembered that another cooking magazine I once enjoyed, Gourmet, had moved to an entirely app-based version and that, despite having spent some money on its digital mini-versions, I hadn't even bothered to restore the app when I was forced to restore the factory settings on my iPad months ago.

Logging back into my Zinio magazine app, I also discovered there were a number of publications I had purchased but never even bothered to download, much less read. On the Apple newsstand app it was much the same, as I had bought some one-off magazines I wouldn't normally buy, read a few digital pages and then let them drift off into the publishing ether once I turned off the device. (Read More: How Much For a Mini iPad?)

Yes, my wasted money is my own fault for not digging deeper into the real estate of the iPad screen. But in my defense, a half-inch app just doesn't have the same attraction as a giant glossy picture of a dripping grilled cheese sandwich on a magazine cover. The cheesy goodness will win out over an iPad 'on' switch every time.

Magazines on tablets are beautiful things. The embedded videos, links, and other goodies only digital can provide add to the overall reading experience. But to improve a reading experience there must first be a reading experience.

Maybe I'm a sucker for shiny pictures.

Maybe I'm too lazy for not digging deeper into the apps.

Maybe I just hate trees.

Either way, I'll be giving the post office more much-needed business as I renew the old school print versions of about 10 magazines over the next few weeks.

—By CNBC's Brian Sullivan
@SullyCNBC

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