(bron: The guardian)
Mainstream magazines might be struggling to survive against digital media, but their independent counterparts are thriving
In the basement of a London bar, gathered like a resistance movement or thralls to some secret perversion, 100 people have come together to discuss their passion for magazines. They particularly like the independently made, keep-it-on-your-bookshelf-afterwards type of mag, but organisers have encouraged the aficionados to share any and all new treasures they’ve found, regardless of subject or appearance. So long as it’s made of paper and ink.
Fittingly, the event is known as Printout; it takes place roughly once every two months. On a bench by the entrance, new arrivals – designers, journalists, students, assorted enthusiasts – are asked to put down what magazines they’ve brought along. Fan, Meat, Shoestring, Ctrl+Alt+Shift, Arty, Buffalo… Quickly, the table is covered with colourful titles, and at the end of the evening, after presentations by visiting magazine-makers as well as a bit of boozy mingling and lots of jokes about font kerning and paper density, departing guests will pick the publication that catches their eye and take it home.
Co-founder Steve Watson explains: “When [the chain bookseller] Borders closed down in 2009, the biggest independent magazine retailer in Britain was wiped out. This was a way of bridging the gap between great magazines and those who’d really like them if they knew about them.” Watson, who in his day job runs a magazine subscription service called Stack, and Jeremy Leslie, editor of the blog magCulture.com, launched Printout last year. They’ll host a party to celebrate its first birthday next month. “There’s no problem with the product; the magazines being made are great,” says Watson. If independent magazines face difficulties in 2012, he says, it’s because of a lack of distribution.
Not the internet? Isn’t the problem always the internet when nice, outmoded things are under threat? Actually, the consensus at Printout seems to be that low-flying indie mags are fairly well placed to weather the financial storms that have troubled the larger magazine houses of late. Indies have traditionally been made by tiny teams on tiny budgets: no change there. And loyal, stubborn customers have been made more loyal, more stubborn by encroaching digitisation. It’s very possible to imagine a future, now, in which bound, tangible mags have been replaced by tablet-based alternatives and fans are clinging ever tighter to their copies of Huck and Last Hours, to Anorak with its 75-point Helvetica and Kasino with its textured cover page.
At Printout, the crowd seems mostly optimistic about life in the iPad age; a point about the online threat, put by somebody during the open-mic part of the evening, raises a few chuckles. “Ah,” says Leslie, chairing, “the death-of-print question…” He turns the subject over to his panel of speakers and Paul Willoughby, creative director of independent film magazine Little White Lies, says: “People are always going to have their personal space, their flat or whatever, and they’re going to want to surround themselves with personal things. I think magazines will always have a place on people’s shelves.” Assuming, Willoughby adds wryly, the internet doesn’t somehow bugger up the shelving industry too.
Both Watson and Leslie maintain that an affection for old media needn’t mean standing against the new. Watson cherishes his subscription to the iPad version of the New Yorker. “People like to say, ‘This is dead and that is living,’” says Leslie, who has designed iPad apps in the past. “It’s not as simple as that. As with most new forms, digital will succeed in various aspects. Print will continue to succeed in others.”
What do they think it is that inspires lasting fondness for the printed page? Leslie points to Printout’s three speakers, Willoughby from Little White Lies and the creative directors from Anorak (a colourful title for children) and Wrap (an ingenious thing that falls apart to be used as wrapping paper once it’s read). “Three magazines,” says Leslie, “three distinct worlds. And it’s their physical differences that define those worlds. As soon as those worlds are squeezed on to an iPad they risk becoming the same.”
Watson has a more atavistic view. “As people, we crumple as we get older, we get smelly, bits break off. Something behind a glass screen, protected from being damaged, it’s hard to feel an emotional bond with that.” He picks up the magazine he’s brought along to share, a German design journal with a bright-red cover. “Look – it’s already starting to get bent around the edges. You feel an affinity with that. It’s something that will die.”
He adds the magazine to the array on the table by the entrance. There, frowning people flick through titles: Manzine, Strange Notes, Lick, Meat. Somebody picks up Reason, then Dweeb, then Surfer’s Path, finally selecting Flamingo and putting it in their bag.
The next Printout is at the Book Club in London, EC2 on 2 May. Tickets cost £5; see stackmagazines.com/printout
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