On magazines, printed and online

Oct 21, 2012

I’m a magazine aficionado — this will be the 36th post to use the word magazines here on The Coconut Wireless. And this picture shows just one collection of magazines around the house:

Saveur magazine collection

When I was a teenager on St. Croix, the rented house we lived in had stacks of National Geographic issues all around, and I wanted one day to be become editor of that golden journal. (There were other magazines, hidden away in closets, that my teenage eyes sought out, but propriety stops me from telling more.) Later, at age 25, I became editor of Northern Ohio Live, an arts and culture magazine. That’s where I met Michael Ruhlman, whose career as a writer has taught me so much. Read his latest, a short memoir called The Main Dish, which he’s published as a Kindle Single. This is a good example of a writer, accustomed to the print-publishing model, making the most of new opportunities.

In high school, I was editor of the New Pennies literary magazine. It won a National Scholastic Press Association Pacemaker Award.

In Honolulu, I bought my first copy of the New Yorker, and I’ve been subscribing nearly continuously since, even when I lived on Paama, where my afternoon siestas were spent reading the every single word in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and yes, Newsweek.

For many years, the Peace Corps sent copies of Newsweek to volunteers the world over. I distinctly recall sitting under the massive mango tree at Liro Primary School, reading Newsweek on the developing Clinton-Lewinsky scandal on 1997. We got over that affair, and Bill Clinton is burning up the campaign trail stumping for Barack Obama (I voted twice for Clinton, and will do the same for Obama). But, Newsweek will soon cease to be a printed publication.

For even longer than I’ve been blogging and talking about online journalism, I’ve been a proponent of printed magazines and books. Until very recently, I never walked across campus — I’ve studied and worked at UNC, N.C. State or Duke — without a newspaper, magazine or book in hand. But, now, I walk with iPad, on which I can read the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Saveur and all the others. I love the convenience, but I’m still getting used to a completely digital reading experience. As I was reading Cloud Atlas these last few weeks, I kept wanting to page back to reference an earlier passage or scene or dialogue. I’m not sure yet how to do that within the Kindle app.

On the iPad earlier this year, I read Doc, by Mary Doria Russell. I saw that she’s writing on a sequel to that novel about Doc Holliday in the run-up to the shootout at the O.K. Corral. I’ll buy it, and maybe in printed form, if partly out of fingertip nostalgia – my memories of reading The Sparrow have a three-dimensional quality, the reading encompassing not just words moving across retina but also my sitting, holding the book, breathing, turning pages, underlining favorite lines.

For me, reading has been a contact sport.

On the day Erin and I moved to North Carolina, I met two graduate students in the UNC medical journalism program. As we unpacked for our new life in Carrboro, I opened one heavy box filled with magazines I’d saved through high school, college, Cleveland and the South Pacific. Many of those issues had articles about medicine and infectious diseases and science, and so I followed my new neighbors into the medical journalism program at UNC. That eventually led me into ScienceOnline, and a role as advocate for electronic communication.

When I heard the news about Newsweek stopping its print run? My first thought: I wonder if there’s an opportunity for ScienceOnline to create a magazine? In a way, Bora’s been proving this opportunity for years with the Open Lab anthology (published last month as The Best Science Writing Online 2012). I recently received the first issue of Howler, a magazine about soccer that I backed on Kickstarter, and I’m a subscriber to Marco’s new The Magazine app.

My point? There’s a lot to read, and a lot of ways to read it. How awesome.

Anton Zuiker

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