Magazine Collections Are Obsolete

I originally pitched this to Wired magazine two years ago. They passed so I figured that I’d put it here in the blog.

I got my first magazine subscription in 1980, when I was 12. It was to the now defunct Science 80. My parents got it for me at Christmas. I still remember the first issue I received. The front cover was of a helicopter flyover of Mt. St. Helens shortly after it erupted. Oh man, I was hooked on science after that.

I read every issue cover to cover. And I saved them all. When they went belly up, my subscription transferred to Discover, who I’ve been with since. I’ve kept every issue of theirs too. Wired joined the crowd in November 1994. I can’t remember how far back I’ve been subscribing to The Planetary Report, but those issues are only a couple dozen pages long and it’s semi-monthly.

I bet you’re wondering why I’ve kept all these magazines for so long. So has my wife. For me, these were collected works of knowledge. I dreamt that one day I’d have my own library with a card catalog that I could reference articles on all of the sciences. I could even chart the progress of theories: from inception to flourishing acceptance or withering discreditation. Scientific knowledge is the thread that holds the fabric of civilization together. You can’t just toss it away! Wired, well, it documented the transformation of civilization to the Information Age.

But it would be the Information Age that would be my collection’s undoing.

You see, when I started collecting the science magazines, the Internet was just a plaything for the DoD and a select few universities. It took years for it to grow into something useful for the general public (the Web), and even then it was painful to use. Modems were snails and web pages were bloated and limited in content. It was still quicker in the mid-90’s for me to dig up an article from a box than to look it up on a website, assuming the information was even there.

But now broadband has cut down the wait and magazines have archived their old issues online. I can now access old articles instantly. And, thanks to wireless, I can do it from anywhere. My magazine collection is obsolete.

I need the space that these once revered sources of knowledge occupy. The first to go is Wired. Why? Because I know their digital archives are complete and easy to search. I looked on eBay to see if I could sell my collection, but despite dozens of listings for back issues, I didn’t see a single bid. But why would you bid on them? The younger generations know it’s all available at any time from anywhere with any smartphone. Why get bogged down with all that paper? Trust me, 18 years of Wired magazines weigh a lot.

Wired collection just before recycling


About DED

I'm a stay-at-home Dad who survived dotcom burnout and a chemical engineering career that fizzled. While the kids are in school, I'm free to write stories. I'm a rational environmentalist, science and technology enthusiast, who leans libertarian, reads and watches sci-fi, drinks and brews beer, and listens to metal.
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5 Responses to Magazine Collections Are Obsolete

  1. Cathy says:


    • Andre says:

      Very cool indeed! Though BookGlutton is a lot more than Wired let on. Thompson kinda let his reerdas down in not highlighting some of the tools you guys have in place. BG offers a better dynamic than just simply discuss books .So here’s to hoping people clicked through the article to experience BookGlutton themselves. Kudos!

  2. Bruno says:

    i just read about this the other day. Fantastic! it really makes me atppeciare what the iPad can do. Once we become more familiar with the technology and its abilities, the grasp of what designers can do with interaction and augmentation of hand held devices will lead to more hybridization between animation and print media, as opposed to solely conceptualizing it.

  3. It depends on what kind of magazines you collect. I prefer science magazines and communist literature almanacs.

  4. DED says:

    Well, that depends on whether or not the magazine holds collector’s item value. As more and more magazines put their back catalog online, it decreases the value of certain genres. Nostalgia factor will help a select few magazines maintain their value (and so long as there are people around who value them): Playboy, Life, Time, The Saturday Evening Post, Astounding Stories (and comic books of course), etc.

    I can see communist literature almanacs being worth collecting for their historical value. That’s not something I see anyone digitizing for readers to consume. There’s no ROI for it. Wired and Discover hope to stay viable by having their vast archives available to the digital masses as the years roll on. In fact, it may be their only means of survival. I’ve watched Discover shrink from 120 pages/issue down to 80 and from 12 issues/year down to 10. I’m thinking that they may follow US News & World Report and go all digital quite soon.

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