What if you could publish your own newspaper?
For as long as I can remember, I've had too much to read, and too little time to do so. With the rise of the internet, I'm now at a point where fantastic content is being published on a daily basis, and I'm fighting to not miss a thing. That's why Pocket, Instapaper, and every other "read-it-later" service exists; to let you read what you want, at your own pace. But what if you don't want to read a giant feature on eBoy on an electronic screen? Enter PaperLater, a new service from British startup Newspaper Club that lets you save articles for reading later and have them sent to you as a physical newspaper. It's currently in an invite-only, UK-only beta.
The printed word has its benefits
It might seem wasteful to print anything nowadays — although Newspaper Club says it uses sustainably sourced newsprint with high recycled content — but there are some upsides to the service. Each newspaper comes neatly formatted with an Andy Gilmore-esque front cover, complete with a note on the number of articles, word count, and a whimsical fact on the rarest words included. I haven't bought a newspaper in well over a year, but there's something undeniably special about reading a printed article in Chronicle Text on quality newsprint stock. Because of the medium, articles like Quinn Norton's "Everything Is Broken" (which had sat in my Pocket queue for almost a month, its 17-minute predicted reading time bullying me into apathy), were quickly read and enjoyed. In fact, I read through all of the 28,361 words in my personalized paper in a single sitting. I can't remember a time I've ever sat in front of my computer and read so much uninterrupted.
Of course, there are some downsides to the printed word. Ordering and printing your paper could be easier. There's a three-to-five day lead time on orders, which means printing anything but "timeless" longform doesn't make a lot of sense. The editorials and reactionary articles that make up a large chunk of my daily reading are effectively off-limits — what's timely today won't be all that interesting next weekend. Articles also aren't presented perfectly, which is forgivable when you're scrolling past an ill-formatted chunk of text in Pocket, but not so much when you're looking at a text link in an expensive custom-printed paper. There's also a seemingly random selection of a single image per story, which can ruin references to photos within articles. Newspaper Club does caution PaperLater is in beta for a reason, but the company will need to fix small formatting niggles like links and images before bringing its service to the masses.
Reactions range from 'OMG I want this' to 'Why on earth would you print the internet?'
Tom Taylor, co-founder of Newspaper Club tells The Verge that tests of the service have so far been positive. PaperLater appears to be a love or hate service, says Taylor. "The reaction [has been] divided between 'OMG I've wanted this all my life' and 'Why on earth would you print out the internet?'"
PaperLater will never take the place of services like Pocket — even Taylor admits to using it alongside a similar app. Short articles suitable for a commute go to the app, longer articles get pushed to the weekend for reading with PaperLater. "It's about giving people the choice to take something offline, and making it really easy to do that." As odd a service as it may seem, PaperLater's existence isn't without precedent. Newspaper Club was founded with similar principles, and has been successfully running for years. Rather than offering an automated service like PaperLater, the site provides simple tools to create custom newspapers, and it's printed over four million newspapers since its formation in 2009.
Eyeing a US launch
For now, PaperLater is still an invite-only service for UK residents — you can request an invite over at PaperLater's site. Newspaper Club says it's currently scaling up the service to prepare for more users, and doesn't have a timeline for a full launch in the UK or beyond, but it is "looking at printing in the US, as well as talking to publishers and other potential partners."