March 11, 2014

"My once beloved magazines sit in a forlorn pile... Television now meets many of the needs that pile previously satisfied."

Writes David Carr in the NYT:
I have yet to read the big heave on Amazon in The New Yorker...
Which I blogged here last month.
... or the feature on the pathology of contemporary fraternities in the March issue of The Atlantic...
Yeah, I already blogged that too, here.
Magazines in general had a tough year...


And then there are books. I have a hierarchy: books I’d like to read, books I should read, books I should read by friends of mine and books I should read by friends of mine whom I am likely to bump into. They all remain on standby. That tablets now contain all manner of brilliant stories that happen to be told in video, not print, may be partly why e-book sales leveled out last year. After a day of online reading that has me bathed in the information stream, when I have a little me-time, I mostly want to hit a few buttons on one of my three remotes — cable, Apple, Roku — and watch the splendors unfurl.
Is pleasure reading dying? Not everyone spends the whole work day reading, as Carr does and I pretty much do. But if that's how you live, maybe in the evening, when you're settling in and feeling tired, you want to look at TV. Carr makes much of the supposed greatness of TV today, at least when you can watch whatever you want whenever you want and also of the problem of ebooks being on the same device where you can watch your TV shows.

I still find I only want to watch one hour of TV a day. I like that hour, but I snap it off after an hour, even if I'm watching a movie and then have to watch the second half the next day. I don't like that much noise, and I resist being stuck with the pace of video. I prefer text, where I control the speed, can skip around, and can react with my own text, as I'm doing right now, blogging about Carr's article without having consumed the whole thing.

51 comments:

Lyssa said...

Interesting. I find it hard to get to books and magazines nowadays, too. But it's not video that has replaced them, but internet text. The rushing pace of blogs and constantly updated news stories seems like more of an immediate need for my reading pleasure.

St. George said...

I actually just got my first issue of my Atlantic subscription yesterday and sat down with it an hour ago.

Interesting....writing about 'sitting down with' a magazine makes it sound like I am with a friend.

The only thing I read in the issue was the back-page fluff story on Oscars'worst mistakes. No Oscar for Hitch! Saving Private Ryan lost.

The cover story is on-line. It's about how lousy fraternities are. Zzzzzz.

Once upon a time The Atlantic published humongo articles by Gregg Easterbrook and James Fallows that were like...20,000 words long. It took an hour to read them. Not so easy to do on a lap top. Same with The New Yorker. Sometimes you just need a 30,000 word article by John McPhee about schist and its folded striations.

Magazines will no more go away than AM radio has gone away. New media forms cause existing media forms to morph, not vanish.

mccullough said...

Beloved and forlorn. He should have watched more tv. He would be a better writer.

RecChief said...

I find that going to th ebookstore is something of a chore now. There are a lot of titles, but sifting through the poorly written ones is a chore, and it seems liek there are so many of them now.

carrie said...

I think pleasure reading will die because parents aren't reading to their kids as much anymore. Parents may hold their kids in their laps at bedtime, but many of them are watching an IPAD together instead of reading a book. IPADS are on the list for most baby showers that I have attended recently. The habit of these children will be to watch, not read. Elementary schools seem to think that every elementary student should have an IPAD too, so the focus has become the internet at school too. Before Christmas, I read one to two books a week. I received an IPAD for Christmas and I have been reading fewer books since I received it. Having an IPAD enhances my reading experience because I can lookup things as I read about them, but it is also a huge distraction.

Ann Althouse said...

I just subscribed to Harper's.

I love my New Yorker subscription (especially the podcast!).

carrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Birches said...

I agree with Lydia. I read more blogs, read magazines less, read books about the same amount.

I would still have my subscription to SI if I thought it was worth my time, but the writing quality took a huge nose dive, especially in the past two years. Even their longform articles have turned into a caricature of themselves. The magazines started sitting unread, so I cancelled the subscription.

campy said...

If only they'd put OFF buttons on those infernal devices ...

Bruce Hayden said...

Interesting. I find it hard to get to books and magazines nowadays, too. But it's not video that has replaced them, but internet text. The rushing pace of blogs and constantly updated news stories seems like more of an immediate need for my reading pleasure.

Agreed. I have been wasting more time blogging and reading news/commentary online over much of the last decade than pretty much anything else that wastes my time.

I do appreciate the convenience of watching movies and TV shows on my electronic devices. I can watch a lot of shows (somewhat) live, without a TV (or at least a TV connected to cable - since I am writing this on a TV connected as a monitor to a computer), or a bunch of episodes in sequence, skipping any I remember. Etc. And, why would anyone bother to go to a movie theater any more, if not on a date? It is so bad around here that we have 3 TVs, 3 computers, and an iPad, all of which we have watched TV or movies on in the last month.

Still, I am a readaholic. Or, maybe just a compulsive reader. Have been since at least high school, when I would ditch school after being up all night reading, and completing, science fiction novels. Works well in law, because that is what much of it involves. Still buy paperbacks at the rare bookstore (mostly Barnes and Nobles, with the other chains having crashed). Have both B&N and Amazon ebook accounts, and do use them, since it is often easier to find stuff I am looking for online than in bookstores. But, still bothered by paying almost as much for a bunch of bits, and I would if it were printed on dead trees.

I do like using my iPad esp. as an ebook reader. Got a B&N device a couple of years ago for Christmas, but essentially gave it to my kid when they went to Europe. I first tried a Windows tablet, but that kept hanging on ebooks, and so dumped it for the iPad. I can take the book to bed with me, and not have to worry about turning off the light when I get tired.

Henry said...

Magazines have a horrendous content to mass ratio. All that inky paper smothering so little information.

Books I can enjoy. Books have a very high content to mass ratio. If I get the book from the library I can return it and my home content to mass ratio approaches infinity, even as the content leaks from my memory.

David said...

Carr needs to visit Althouse blog on a regular basis.

wildswan said...

The biggest difference is I just will not pay at all for a magazine subscription - I read the whole year so far as it interests me in one day in the library. And I won't pay full price for a new book - only a Kindle price - or a new movie - only an Amazon price. And I ignore cable - only using Roku. But my actual interests haven't changed at all - just access is a lot cheaper and easier and the "text" is better illustrated so to speak. For instance I used to read letters to the editor to hear the other arguments but now I can read a far more diverse selection of comments in various blogs. And I like art but the big museums seem stuck in 1913 or else they put up graffitti. Whereas there are all kinds of art blogs by knowledgeable people that I could never have known anything about before the internet.

The lack of central themes is sort of strange but there probably are themes that everyone is quite well aware of only they aren't authorized themes so people just like them - the way comics used to be.

Roughcoat said...

I just subscribed to Harper's. I love my New Yorker subscription (especially the podcast!).

You are. The most. Interesting woman in the world.

Michael K said...

I find I read most books on Kindle, especially fiction. Serious non-fiction with maps/charts requires a book. TV is only Roku/Netflix or Pawn Stars, the only show I ever watch. Lots of interesting things appear. Probably only in Las Vegas.

The only magazine I read is Naval History by Naval Institute.

Multiple blogs, of course.

Martha said...

I do not buy Carr's explanation. Reading and watching video are totally different experiences and, IMHO, are not interchangeable.

I do most of my reading now on my iPad--- iBooks, New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and of course the best blog available on the internet: ALTHOUSE.

Tank said...

I like to read. Years ago I was distracted by the tv, so I took it out of the living room and put it in a "tv room." Others could go in there and watch, and I could read in peace.

Now my ipod (damn that Althouse) is a distraction. So I leave it in the bedroom where I have to go get it to use it.

Really, reading PG Wodehouse is the most fun you can have with your clothes on and no alcohol.

ALP said...

TV is also a shared experience. If you are an American Idol fan, you know you are consuming the same product/story at roughly the same time (within a day or two) as millions of others. You are a PART of it - and you can talk to many other people about what your experience was like watching the show. It makes you a part of something bigger.

Books don't offer that experience in quite the same way.

Michael K said...

"Others could go in there and watch, and I could read in peace."

A word of warning. My first wife used to watch TV and I would read and listen to classical music with ear phones. Now I have hearing aids. Should have gotten rid of her sooner. Just kidding.

traditionalguy said...

The New Yorker story on Amazon really hates Amazon.

Bezos must be making NYC into an unnecessary place.

Mary Beth said...

The only magazine I still read regularly is the BBC History Magazine. The content is interesting and it's the only one I've found that formats well on the Kindle Fire.

I tried several magazines when the Fire came out and all of the rest of them were formatted so poorly they weren't worth the bother. They may have improved, that was back in 2011.

Sigivald said...

I read voraciously.

But it's almost all fiction, and it's all eBooks.

Why on Earth would I subscribe to the Atlantic?

The two things I might care about in it, so to speak, I can get online - and probably aren't even in the print edition.

(The Atlantic physical magazine? The New Yorker?

East-coast pretentious-pseudo-intellectual Leftist drivel.)

Lyssa said...

ALP said:TV is also a shared experience. If you are an American Idol fan, you know you are consuming the same product/story at roughly the same time (within a day or two) as millions of others.

It's a societal shared experience, but it can also be a more intimate shared experience. I almost never watch TV without my husband (at least, not in the actively sitting down to watch something, rather than just having it on), but the time in the evening that he and I share watching really engaging shows, and discuss them (whether deep, i.e, The Walking Dead, or silly, like Hell's Kitchen), is special.

St. George said...

Imagine a magazine for liberated upscale Moms that glorifies housework. Its cover story is "Easy Ways to Clean Anything: The A-to-Z Guide Every Household Needs" which recommends Windex, Brillo, and Pledge. Imagine articles on sewing tips, taming toddlers, and what yellow toenails really mean.

"Real Simple."

It's all in the packaging.

Genius.

paul a'barge said...

My once beloved dinosaurs sit with their skeletons in dirt and have to be dug up. And I'm a whiny neurotic about it.

William said...

I like Netflix. You can be pretty ruthless with movies. They have a half hour to capture my attention, or they're iced. I like big, dumb movies with lots of special effects. I watch them in Spanish in order to improve my language skills. So I actually improve my mind by watching Transformers......,I subscribe to The New Yorker. There's always at least one article worth reading, but some of those articles go on forever. You start with what you figure will be a quick read about, say, the Muslim Brotherhood, and you're in for life.

Fen said...

I do not buy Carr's explanation. Reading and watching video are totally different experiences and, IMHO, are not interchangeable.

Agreed. We had that very discussion here a few months back. Consensus was that people avoid internet videos because they "trap" you.

Insty sometimes links to video analysis of some topic. I immediately back out of the link - its a waste of time and somewhat insulting to be a "captive" audience.

I want to read. I want to be able to skim over the fluff and compare opening paragraphs to their conclusion, to be able to fisk or revisit key portions of text whenever I want. Video just does not allow that in a way thats convenient. Plus, most videos have unnecessarily long intros full of fluff (hint: if I'm not getting to your article in less than 5 seconds, you've lost my attention).

All that said, the only magazines I read are the ones at the doctor's office. Even the current ones are months out of date (from an information broker's perspective).

Waste of paper. And its not because of video formats.

Fen said...

And I find it interesting that Carr and his kind appear ignorant of all this. If they're thisout of touch with their base, their magazines prob are too.

Freeman Hunt said...

I went to a book store the other day, and they had hundreds of different magazines, so I asked if they had City Journal, which I keep wanting to try, but they didn't. Lame.

I like MAKE and The WSJ. I tried several popular science magazines, but none of them were any good. Anyone have a recommendation?

As for television, I like Columbo. Other than that, movies only, often watched in halves. Bad ones are turned off once recognized as bad. My husband and I like to talk to each other a lot. A lot lot. A lot lot lot. And so on.

Scott said...

Characterizing TV as a shared experience is like saying that drinking tap water is a shared experience. No it isn't. Anyone who has watched a 1950s-era MGM musical film in a packed movie theater knows what a real shared experience is like. You become part of the crowd consciousness. That is impossible to experience by watching American Idol on TV.

Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo is Dead said...

tl;dr

Pogo is Dead said...

David Carr is Dr. Dave Bowman in 2014: A NYTimes Odyssey, writin:
"...an always-on ecosystem of immense riches that leaves me feeling less like the master of my own universe, and more as if I am surrounded.".

The black monolith then appears in the center of his room. David is transformed into a fetus in a sac. Floating in space, the large open-eyed fetus -- the Star Child -- gazes at the nearby Earth.

In the background plays: "Thus Spake Zarathustra."

fizzymagic said...

Birches said...

I agree with Lydia. I read more blogs, read magazines less, read books about the same amount.


Me three.

My perception is that magazine quality has decreased over the last decade. Is that because blogs are so much more immediate?

Donald Douglas said...

"I prefer text, where I control the speed, can skip around, and can react with my own text, as I'm doing right now, blogging about Carr's article without having consumed the whole thing."

I do too. That said, I enjoyed Carr's piece because I do find there are a few TV shows that I wish I could see (or could have seen without interruption).

Fen said...

My perception is that magazine quality has decreased over the last decade. Is that because blogs are so much more immediate?

It might be talent? We take for granted the meritocracy of blogs (if you are good, you'll acquire readers). But I bet that, before blogging became big, the magazines had a gatekeeper mentality - it was more about who you knew than talent that got you published.

Once bloggers broke through that gate, there wasn't as much need to network with and suck up to the magazine cliques?

ALP said...

Lyssa said:
It's a societal shared experience, but it can also be a more intimate shared experience. I almost never watch TV without my husband (at least, not in the actively sitting down to watch something, rather than just having it on), but the time in the evening that he and I share watching really engaging shows, and discuss them (whether deep, i.e, The Walking Dead, or silly, like Hell's Kitchen), is special.
************************
So true! TV stories are the main shared activity between my partner and I. I love watching TV with my SO, as he gets so wrapped up in the story, I have to remind him: these people are NOT REAL!

OTOH, I introduced him to Christopher Hitchens...I knew those two would hit it off. That's the one author we bond over and discuss frequently.

lemondog said...

How is Amazon like the Government?

Amazon’s shape-shifting, engulfing quality, its tentacles extending in all directions,

Is it Bezos’ strategy to engulf and become the Government?

Jeff with one 'f' said...

TV?!? I don't know anyone that watches TV except for my parents. Carr is showing his age and his suburban, flyover tastes here.

I use my tv to watch downloaded cable shows and streaming content from Netflix and Amazon. And I watch more stuff than most of my friends.

I read Atlantic and Harper's articles online, though.

ALP said...

Scott:

That is impossible to experience by watching American Idol on TV.
**************
I have to respectfully disagree, as a former AI fan. While the experience may not be all at once, in the same physical place, you can easily tap into the thoughts of many, many people through your job, friends, the internet...etc.

A movie is a one time experience lasting 90-120 minutes; TV happens on a weekly basis, the experience lasts for the entire season, giving one ample opportunity to tap into the group experience - or even organize group viewings. In the case of shows with lots of suspense ("The Walking Dead" or "Breaking Bad") even WAITING together for the next episode is part of the experience.

I have seen some of the most divergent types of people discussing AI with the utmost of passion, Dr. Who fans who just met and immediately "click"....and I can bond with people half my age due to my love of show such as "Family Guy" and "Archer".

TV has an amazing way of bringing people together.

ALP said...

"I don't know anyone that watches TV except for my parents."

I think many people use the term "TV" as a catch-all to describe watching stories or information on a screen. Any screen. It might be an age thing, but I am too lazy to spell out that I watch the TV show "In the Thick of It" via Hulu as opposed to having been present in the UK when it was originally broadcast on the BBC. Its a boring semantic thing as far as I am concerned...what's really important is: what is your favorite Malcolm Tucker rant?

St. George said...

Just back from the grocery store!

The cover of Oprah is all junked up, clearly a result of declining sales last year. Headline--"De-Clutter for 2014!"

A nearby magazine is called "Organize." Not for leftists, it's for closet cleaning.

Main cover story? "De-clutter!"

Clearly a major societal trend. (This stuff is all researched.)

Translation: People are being evicted, are downsizing, moving on, selling what crap they can find to make ends meet.

Michael K said...

" so I asked if they had City Journal, which I keep wanting to try, but they didn't. Lame."

It's one of the two I read. The other (arrived today) is Claremont Review of Books. Both are online.

Both quarterly so it's not over load.

Freeman Hunt said...

Michael, I will check out the Claremont Review.

Freeman Hunt said...

What is the appeal of the magazines in the grocery store checkout line?

There are the tabloids:
"Stranger Has Huge Bottom!"
"Stranger Too Thin, Has No Bottom at All!"
"Stranger Caught Cheating on Stranger with Stranger!"
"Stranger Has Baby!"
"Good-Looking Strangers"

The food ones:
"Second Tier Recipes Not in Books"
"Twee Desserts"

And Cosmopolitan:
"Exploring a Skill You Likely Already Have: How to Have Sex"
"Gilding the Lily: How to Make Men Want to Have Sex"
"People Enjoy Sex!"

whswhs said...

I'm a copy editor, so I spend my work day reading, but I still relax by reading more often than by watching video. I do spend a fair bit of time online, but I often read multiple books in a week—some for the first time, some rereads, partly of old favorites and partly of books I haven't looked at in years. Aside from the more immersive rewards of books, they let me rest my eyes with a different focal length.

I hardly ever look at online video material, and I rarely listen to online audio. It tries my patience too much to put up with the slow presentation of information, and the inability to search efficiently frustrates me. If someone's speech is important enough for me to pay attention to it's important enough for someone to transcribe.

Birches said...

Plus, most videos have unnecessarily long intros full of fluff (hint: if I'm not getting to your article in less than 5 seconds, you've lost my attention).

Agreed.

Unknown said...

Following college, Class of '64, I must have subscribed to a dozen or more magazines; Sports Illustrated/Playboy, Time, USNews, Pyschology Today,Scientific American, American Heritage, Smithsonian, Aviation Week-Space Technology are the ones I remember. Also "Book of the Month Club" member and constant user of the public library. And, both an AM & PM newspaper, (yes, that was available then).
Of course TV was then quite limited. Again, using depleted memory storage, Star Trek, Laugh-In, Sonny & Cher, Smothers Bros., Wide-World of Sports & Sunday AFL/NFL football were "try to watch".
No magazines since, still strong book & too many "blogs". TV is mostly "record/fast fwd./delete".
Hopefully this thread is dead & I've not subjected any to maudlin moping.

St. George said...

"Backyard Poultry"

A niche an inch wide and a mile deep.

Stories in the current issue include:

"Does Your Chicken Have a Cold?"

"The Basics of Training Your Chickens"

"Are Chickens Lactose Intolerant?"

Of course, that regular column..."Gertrude McCluck"

And some say magazines are dead.

(Subscribe now and get the FREE book "Rule Your Roost." Double your fun and also subscribe to "Sheep!" from the same publisher.)

Sheep!

Simon Kenton said...

Freeman Hunt:

"I like MAKE and The WSJ. I tried several popular science magazines, but none of them were any good. Anyone have a recommendation?"

Science News. You have to tune out the sound of a thousand axes grinding (climate change) but their articles are diverse, depthy, and (for the cosmic stuff) reasonably comprehensible.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

I makea distinction between "watching tv" and watching tv shows. "Watching TV" i siting for an interminable amount of time watching television, watching the commercials, watching whatever happens to be on, switching channels to see if something good is on. Also, leaving the tv on for hours on end as the background to your domestic life. This is how I grew up and what I experience when I visit my parents or my sister in their homes.

It's too forced-upon-you for my tastes anymore. I know what I want and I know how to find it and I watch it when I want to. The result is that I spend far less time in front of the flatscreen and the time I do spend is quality time in my estimation.