Monday, August 12, 2013

Periodic Problem

This week, The Wooden Horse Magazine Media News reported a (continuing) downward trend in magazine sales in the first half of 2013. Specifically, "overall circulation of 390 measured titles declined about 1%, with newsstand sales down 10%." Digital sales, on the other hand, are increasing, with 10.2 million "digital replica editions" sold in the first half of 2013, almost double the number of digital editions sold in the same time period last year.

This triggered a reaction in my as both a writer and a reader. Having just written a (positive) review of such a digital replica edition, I was interested to discover that there was a name for a magazine that looked as good online as it did in print. As a freelancer, I was also happy to hear that something was trending upward in the market where I aim to place most of my work.

But as a subscriber to The Wooden Horse's Magazine Media News, I know that most magazines -- at least the kind we can fold up and take with us as waiting room reading material -- are not trending in that direction. And while an all digital magazine market would certainly eliminate a major source of clutter in my house, I find that almost as depressing as an all-digital book market.

Don't get me wrong -- I love the convenience of e-readers, and have even developed my own set of rules on what I can (non-fiction titles) and can't (novels) read on an e-reader. I choose to view the
e-book revolution as a means of broadening our options rather than as a harbinger of the end of print reading materials. While some might argue that this stance is a case of what my dad describes as "don't confuse me with facts, my mind's already made up," I disagree. Lines at bookstores, reserve lists for library books and newspapers strewn on tables in hotels and at coffee shops are just a few examples of the human desire to hold the printed word -- not a virtual version -- in one's hands.

But I never really thought about magazines. Savvy publications have had online components for years, and some old standards have dumped their print versions for digital versions. Other magazines promise digital bonus material when subscribers access the online versions, and when a digital replica version sells better than a printed version littered with perfume samples and subscription cards, can the disappearance of print magazines be far behind?

I hope not. Much as I hate inviting the clutter of print periodicals into my home, I can't imagine transferring my loyalties over to sanitized digital versions of all the magazines I enjoy. And yes, I did say that was a positive review I wrote of the digital replica version of Word Among Us, so I obviously can see the value in some digital issues of some magazines some of the time, but replacing all those glossy pages and photos with digital replicas? The thought makes me a little queasy.

How about you? How do you like to read your periodicals?

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