I’ve always been a big fan of magazines. When I was a kid, “Life” and “Popular Mechanics” came to the house, introducing me to people and things that never came anywhere near my small town.
I learned about short stories and cartoons from the “Saturday Evening Post” that was always on my grandmother’s kitchen table. I cribbed jokes I could tell in polite company from the stacks of “Readers Digest” at the doctor’s office.
And what red blooded Canadian male of a certain age can ever forget that stapled insert slowly slipping open on a clandestinely acquired copy of “Playboy”…
“Esquire” introduced me to a life long admiration of a kid named Cassius Clay who became “The Greatest”, while the hockey photos in “Sports Illustrated” showed me dimensions of another “Great One” that you couldn’t glean from televised games.
“National Geographic” helped me understand the peoples of the world and “Maclean's” my country’s place among them.
For me, magazines have always been an opportunity to enter a different world or new experience, the opportunity to get to know somebody I’ll never meet, test drive a car I’ll never be able to afford or visit a world hot spot I actually don’t want to go anywhere near.
No magazine will ever give you a definitive understanding of any topic. That’s not their job. Magazines open doors, make suggestions, give you the entry level to get into a conversation with somebody who knows the subject. They’re designed to be eclectic, transitory and more fun than a newspaper.
When I worked in LA, I found few greater pleasures at the end of a long day than walking through a warm night to a 24 hour sidewalk news stand and erasing the narrow focus of what had been my day amid the vast array of other interests, diversions and points of view that its wall of magazines had to offer.
It’s a world that probably won’t be with us much longer – at least in its present form.
Much of the Buzz coming from this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was about tablet computers. Devices that look like your current laptop screen will perform many of the functions you need from a computer but at the tap of a stylus or pen.
One manufacturer displayed a model containing the entire curriculum of a high school senior year, including textbooks, video lectures and the ability to email essays and homework. We’ve almost seen the last of kids lugging heavy pack-packs to school. If they actually have to turn up in a classroom anymore, they’ll make their way like the students of PLato and Socrates did, with nothing more than a slate under their arms.
Those tablet computers will also be the way most people get magazines in the near future. No more scanning an overpriced rack in an airport or picking through the meagre offerings at an out of the way resort. Whatever you want to read will simply be zapped to your tablet or Kindle or whatever other device suits your lifestyle.
But that doesn’t mean that the pleasure you get when you peel back the glossy cover of your favorite magazine will go away. In fact, scientists, editors and graphic designers are already compiling models for magazines that will be just as good as the ones you now have to recycle.
Scan the magazine stand of the future and – enjoy your Sunday.
As a final note, “Maclean’s”, the best mainstream magazine our country has to offer, will soon be available in digital format and you can get sign up for a free one year subscription here.