For a few years after college, I worked for a scientific journal whose North American headquarters was located at a local university. It was there, in a creative writing class, that I met K.–who happened to work in the Dean’s Office two floors down from me. We became fast friends, cemented in part because of our love of reading. Now a lot of people say that they “love to read,” but those declarations often fall into the category of the type like “I love puppies!” or “I love music”–the generic kind that you echo to friendly acquaintances.
Well K. was a bona fide readaholic–a person who as a child, had wished for two heads so she could read more than one book simultaneously (!). Several (ahem) years later, she is still one of my best friends–and along with our mutual friend D., members of a very short list from whom I will confidently take a book recommendation.
In the first few months that we knew each other, K. and I discovered that another thing we had in common was an irrational love for magazines. We were equal opportunity as far as they were concerned–devouring all of the standard fashion glossies: Vogue, Elle, Bazaar, W (I could go on). But our stacks would also be filled with European imports of said fashion glossies as well as newsweeklies and celebrity rags. I remember the day when we discovered the inaugural issue of Lucky in the Coolidge Corner CVS.
Every Thursday at lunch, I would swing by her office and we would walk to Back Bay to the (now closed) Copley Square Newsstand on Dartmouth Street where we would load up on our favorite weeklies, as they were all released on Thursdays. Our stacks always included US Weekly, People, and yes, the occasional Enquirer (research, we liked to say).
The newsstand on Dartmouth Street looked just like this one.
The rest of the workday would be filled with great anticipation for when I would get home from work and start working my way though my stack of magazines. If I had a tiring day, I would skip straight to the US Weekly, where I could just flip through the pages, glancing at the photos (Stars Like Us! Baby Bump Watch!), or, if I still felt focused, I would go to The New Yorker or The Atlantic.
When the Dartmouth Street newsstand shuttered, I knew things were changing. It was swiftly followed by rumors that the venerable Out of Town News in Cambridge’s Harvard Square would be closing. But the newsstand, owned by Sheldon Cohen from 1955-1994 (now owned and leased out by the City of Cambridge) has remained in business–largely because of public outcry. Out of Town News has loyal patrons (it is still my favorite place to go to pick up The International Herald Tribune, or my favorite Italian crossword magazine), but nearly half of the business’ revenue now comes from refreshments and souvenir sales. Times have changed, that is for certain. The question is, will the newsstand–and the print periodical survive?
In the second half of 2013, newsstand sales of magazines dipped 11.1%, according to a February 2014 report by the Alliance for Audited Media. There have been steady gains in digital replica editions, but despite the increase, digital sales only represent about 3.5% of the total sales for most magazines.
Are we coming to the end of an era?
I, for one, still continue to purchase print magazines with aplomb–even if I have to endure the clucking of Rose, the cashier at my local drugstore as she mutters, “Thirty dollars. On magazines” as I check out.
My magazine backlog that I plan to get through this weekend.
What about you, readers? Do you buy print magazines? Do you get them from a newsstand? If you have made the switch to digital access of magazines, how does the experience compare?