The expression, the best things in life are free, applies to fresh air, the view out the window and a positive attitude. For the next five weeks, it will also apply to the Wrangell Sentinel.

Starting this week, the Sentinel has turned off the paywall to its website. Anyone with a keyboard, a mouse, a smartphone, a swiping finger or a voice-activated personal assistant will be able to go to and read all the news they want.

Normally, the online edition of the Sentinel is available only to people who buy a subscription. As old-fashioned as that might seem, it’s a major source of the revenue we need to stay in business.

But even I, a curmudgeon who likes living in the past, can see that printed newspapers eventually will go the way of typewriters, stick-shift cars, wired phones and Polaroid cameras. Print is the past, not the future.

Newspapers are costly to print, expensive to air freight back to town and to mail — and that’s when the flying weather cooperates. Besides, an increasing number of people get their news online. It’s convenient, it’s available 24 hours a day, and they don’t get smudgy ink all over their hands.

People also get a lot of garbage and dishonest headlines pretending to be news, but that’s not the point of the Sentinel’s experiment through July 7.

The Sentinel has no plans to abandon print, but we do want to learn two things from this free offer: How many potential new readers are out there who prefer to read the newspaper online; and how many would be willing to pay for it after the free offer ends.

Online-only subscriptions are just $40 a year, less than the price of half-a-dozen large lattes. Of course, we hope to gain new subscribers. The Sentinel loses money, and more revenue would help. But more importantly, we hope to entice more people to read our reporting. Just like the tree that falls in the forest but no one is there to hear the sound, our reporting can’t make a difference if no one sees the stories. The more people who read the news, the more our work has value for the community.

If you are reading this announcement, you either subscribe or buy the paper at a store in town. Thank you. What I ask is that you suggest to non-readers that now is a good opportunity to take a look at the Sentinel, for free.