In a world that practically froths with the churn and chaos of putting more and more stuff online, PaperLater is a brand-new project with a counterintuitive premise: to take things that are online … and put them in print.
“No more clicks,” the company promises. “Sit. Read. Relax.”
It’s an enticing idea in a world where most Americans adults check their phones before getting out of bed, where more than 18 billion searches are made each month, and where Buzzfeed has written no fewer than 22,500 articles about cats. There’s just so much “content” — to use a much-loathed industry buzzword — that it feels both pointless and self-defeating to try to keep up. Worse, there’s an existential-crisis-inducing impermanence about the whole thing. Tweets disappear down scrolling screens. Important stories get buried beneath an avalanche of Google search results.
Next to that, ye olde print newspaper — presumably consumed with fresh-squeezed orange juice, at the kitchen table, 1950s-style — doesn’t just sound “relaxing,” in PaperLater’s parlance. It’s practically idyllic. It’s certainly an image of a time that doesn’t exist.
And that’s exactly what PaperLater, and a horde of products like it, are selling: an idea, or at least a feeling. Newspaper Club, the on-demand publishing company behind PaperLater, promises “the joy of holding something physical” even as “more reading [is] done digitally.” Memeoirs lets customers turn WhatsApp conversations and Facebook messages into keepsake books. Tweetbook turns your Twitter feed into a “diary-like” printable PDF. Even online-only publishers, like Grantland and Pitchfork, have begun to offer print projects that curate (for not-unconsiderable sums of money!) blog posts that were already available online for free.
Maybe they’re all selling a calmer, less distracting experience, as PaperLater claims. Or maybe, as I suspect, they’re essentially peddling a sense of permanence: an immutable reminder that these things are real — that they mattered — even if they only happened online.
Whatever it is, it’s only available in the U.K. for now, though per PaperLater’s Web site the company may make the service available to other countries in the future. Then you, too, can read Nat Buckley’s “Blink and It’s Gone,” the blog post featured in many of PaperLater’s press photos, from the comfort of your ’50s-style kitchen table.
Worth noting? “Blink and It’s Gone” is a celebration of Snapchat — the most fleeting, most trivial, most impermanent medium of them all.