Jericho

Conde-Nast has pulled the plug on Gourmet, not to mention a pair of bridal magazines and Cookie.  Conde-Nast, the untouchable ginormous center of all things magazine, is shutting down four magazines.  You may wonder why I give a shit, as the only one we subscribe to is Cookie, and that is mostly for my husband.

I care because I am a writer, and I am not particularly thrilled to watch the publishing industry go up in great big puffs of smoke.  It is gasping for breath, people, because no one is buying and no one is advertising.  People are still reading, but they are turning to the internet for their material.  We’re all too busy getting the milk for free to buy the cow.  Which is all well and good until the cows all die of starvation and then there’s no more decent milk and we’re all stuck drinking that Silk crap.

(Yes, I am fully aware I just compared writers to cows and then pummeled the metaphor into ground beef.)

And, yes, I am more likely to read Bitch than Vogue, but I’m damned glad that Vogue is there, not the least because they actually pay writers to produce.  We need people who make their living writing, not just people who write for the sheer joy of it.  Writing is seriously hard work, and if people cannot get some remuneration for it, they will most likely have to find another way to spend the hours between midnight and three AM.

I am tired of people acting like any fool can write and why the fuck should we pay for books when we can get them for free on the internet.  I will continue to blog because I think there is a time and a place for this kind of exchange, but I do not think blogs replace newspapers.  I do not think free e-books replace the kind with two covers and a publishing house behind them.  I do not think e-zines replace the kind of magazines that makes me pretend I really need ten minutes in the bathroom because I just want to finish an article.

We are facing a crunch like everyone else.  I’ve cut back my book buying.  But I feel strongly that reading material ought to be very far down on the list of things to be curtailed because we can eat beans instead of meat, but there is no substitute for intellectual activity.

In my bathroom, we have Cookie, The Economist, The Pennsylvania Gazette, The New Yorker, Ms. Magazine, Hip Mama, and Brain, Child.  Glamour sits on the table beside the glider where I nurse Lilah, which is why I know it is OK to wear florals in the wintertime this year, should I every decide to buy any new clothing.  I take books out of the library, but I also try to fit buying them into my budget now and then.  I value the work done by writers and editors, and I am willing to pay for it.

12 responses to “Jericho

  1. Yes, but I think that the advent of the electronic age has also pressed publishing to downsize. It may certainly have been impacted by the economy, but more than anything, publishing reacts just like any other good business and moves with the times. The question to ask is what form intellectual pursuits will take in the future- and it may not be paper.

  2. I think Evenshine has a point. The industry will continue to evolve. I’m reminded of the mushroom growth – and death – of magazines in the Victorian/Edwardian era. There were a lot of really excellent journals being produced – high quality, by subscription, beautifully bound journals contributed to by some of the most interested writers of their day. They did not, however, survive, because the business plan wasn’t sound. In many ways it’s tragic because there was a huge amount of materiel lost – all those stories and serials and articles that never got written. However. The writers did not stop writing, and I think in this situation the same thing will happen.

    I am torn, because I do hate to see print dry up, but I also have absolute faith that the demand for good writing has not left (merely shifted) and that while this is a loss in one way it is also a tremendous opportunity in another. I’m going to go glass-half-full on this one and watch with interest to see how the written word evolves.

  3. Ahem. Obviously I haven’t evolved enough! Will proof-read next time (and perhaps NOT comment while trying to multi-task!)

  4. I love magazines, and I am very sad to see them so.

    But I agree with the others – all hope may not be lost. We are in a time of flux, and we have yet to see how it is going to turn out. My hope is that good writing will continue to be recognized and rewarded, even if it isn’t in exactly the same format we know from our childhood.

  5. I agree with all above although I will miss glossy magazines. I’ve always been a bit of a magazine freak and the piles I have are getting slimmer and slimmer…

  6. I’ll always be grateful to Gourmet for introducing me to the late, great Laurie Colwin.

  7. I am so sad about Gourmet.

    I was at a writer’s conference this weekend where we talked about this very thing. Each session was taught by authors. I went to probably 15 sessions and without fail, each author talked about the dwindling market. That magazines may be the last great frontier…and they are fading. Others are putting out thinner issues or publishing hard copies fewer times during the year and posting more regular content online (incidently, paying writers less or not at all.)
    I have to say, it isn’t very encouraging for those of us who would like to make a go of this.

    I thought of you several times this weekend, Emily. Wondering if you have found an agent/publisher for you memoir and thinking how much I would LOVE to read your book (as some others read from their books, in love with their own voice *ahem*) and how much I would LOVE to sit in on a session that you taught…

  8. I LOVE buying books. It might not be good for my wallet, but there is nothing like the smell and feel of a new book. And I do occasionally buy a kindle book for my iphone (because I can’t get the the book store) and I am still paying for the words that appear on my screen. We get a newspaper and LOTS of magazines. Maybe more magazines than I have time to read. But, I just spent 1/2 a Saturday reading an entire National Geographic. Words (and pictures) are worth paying for. My time on the internet is just a hobby 🙂

  9. Honestly, I think the industry is going to continue to evolve to a place where much of the material is electronic. I’m all about e-books (and I buy mine) myself. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll abandon cracking open new books and devouring the pages, turning back to savor favorite parts. I do make room for those purchases, too, because I think books are more than paper. I buy books for my son, because “Goodnight Moon” just isn’t the same on a small electronic screen. And God knows the Internet contains a plethora of poorly written, inane dreck, whose only redeeming factor is it only costs us several minutes of our lives to wade through. But here and there lie delightful gems, like you.

    I think there’s room for well-paid, quality writers in the digital age. The industry is just going to be bumpy while we all figure it out.

  10. You know I’d like your opinions on libraries. I pretty much only use the library now for both me and my little girl, though I will rarely buy a book we discover there if it’s a favorite. But for me I don’t buy anything, even before we moved and started trying not to own anything. So how to library-users like me, who desperately love published materials and use them but don’t pay for them, fit into the economics of publishing?

  11. As an editor-type: Thank you for this post!

  12. Amen! I won’t buy used books (unless out of print) or even used video games because the creators get no money, only the retailers.

    I don’t buy e-books, even though I know that’s where everything is headed, including embedding video into the e-book. I like holding a book in my hand. The non-tech nature of it is soothing, in a way.

    Now everyone please buy my book PACIFY ME and save my tiny little publisher, Simon and Schuster from going under.