Corner newsstand or cyber newsstand? A budget comparison

Target has drawn in consumers by putting spaghetti, shoes and stereos under the same roof. Next up in its quest to marry shopping and convenience: a target.com library of online magazines -- complete with links to the products featured in them.

The "Target Newsstand," which you can browse through, has already launched, although those aforementioned e-commerce links won't materialize until 2010.

So what's in it for Target shoppers -- and magazine readers -- in the meantime? The site's subscriptions to online versions of publications like Elle and Woman's Day seem pretty cheap -- most are less than $10.

But are the discounted, e-reader versions of your favorite magazines actually good values? We chose 10 titles and decided to find out.
O: The Oprah Magazine
Target Newsstand price: 12 issues, $10.20
Print subscription price: 12 issues, $18
WORTH IT?
Yes. For a year's subscription, definitely go with Target on this one -- with the nearly $8 you save, you could get another magazine for a year, too. If you're up for a two or three year commitment, consider print; Oprah's two and three-year print subscriptions to the magazine bring the cost down to $1 an issue.

Elle
Target Newsstand price: 12 issues, $6.80
Print subscription price: 12 issues, $10
WORTH IT?
Depends on your priorities. Elle is chock full of fabulous articles that read as well on your screen as they do on the page. But if your priority is their couture coverage, saving $3.20 might not be worth squinting at cyber-scans of fashion spreads.

Dwell
Target Newsstand price: $16.96, 10 issues
Print subscription price: $19.95, 10 issues
WORTH IT?
Not in this case. Dwell is a lush-photography, design-focused mag -- readers would be wise to spring for the extra $2.99.

Foreign Policy
Target Newsstand price: $16.96, 6 issues
Print subscription price: $19.95, 6 issues
WORTH IT?
Yes. Here we have another difference of just $2.99 -- but Foreign Policy isn't exactly known for its beautiful photos and design. For a small but meaningful cost-cutting, go with the online version.

Woman's Day
Target Newsstand price: $8.50, 15 issues
Print subscription price: $10, 15 issues
WORTH IT?
No. Target beats out the print price -- but a two-year print subscription is $16, or $1 less than two years through the online service would be. Plus, if you're a reader who likes to rip out and save WD recipes, you'll want to go the paper route no matter what.

Popular Mechanics
Target Newsstand price: $6.79, 12 issues
Print subscription price: $10, 12 issues
WORTH IT?
Yes. The Target Newsstand is your key to keeping costs down on this one -- especially since the print two-year subcription ($18) and three-year subscription ($24) don't come any closer to beating the online price than the one-year does.

Parenting (School Years)
Target Newsstand price: $12.72, 12 issues
Print subscription price: $12, 12 issues
WORTH IT?
Obviously not -- you can get the hard copies of this Parenting mag for 72 cents less. And with a two-year subscription, the per-issue price falls to 83 cents.

Billboard Magazine
Target Newsstand price: $84.15, 51 issues
Print subscription price: $299, 51 issues
WORTH IT?
Yep. Target saves music lovers a whopping $214.85 on this subscription. One caveat: Billboard's price of $299 includes free access to their website, too -- the Target price does not.

Viv Mag
Target Newsstand price: $25.50, 6 issues
Print subscription price: $36, 6 issues
WORTH IT?
Yes -- especially since Viv Mag, a women's mag, is a print-web hybrid that encourages browsing the magazine online. With a subscription through Target, you won't miss out on anything -- except paying an extra $10.50.

Seventeen
Target Newsstand price: $6.79, 12 issues
Print subscription price: $10, 12 issues
WORTH IT?
Not on your life. The online price might seem like a bargain to parents -- but just try running that by your teenage daughter, who's going to be seriously annoyed when she realizes you've switched her subscription over to a format that lends itself to neither sleepover sharing nor binder collages. The teen sector is one place where print should rule forever.

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