The Gift of Print
by Maxine Carter-Lome
One comment I hear repeatedly when I tell people I am the publisher of a print magazine is, why print? Given our growing reliance on our computers, phones, and tablets to find, receive, and read content of interest, it is easy to see why many are skeptical about the future of print. It seems that almost anything you would be interested in reading can now be found online. In this growing alternative reality of how and where we get what we want to read, “Go Green—why cut down more trees” is a reasoned appeal to choose digital over print.
Media buyers and advertisers also question the future of print. One theory holds that advertisers are able to make more efficient ad buys for less money by tracking people’s search history and what they consume, and building a following on social media. While I respect these viewpoints, to me, print is here to stay for many types of publications, including ours.
Music lovers and audiophiles talk about the warmth of the analog sound, and reminisce about the experience of going to tag sales and sifting through record bins at their favorite hole-in-the-wall record store to find new or vintage albums for their collection. After years of stagnate growth and record mega-store closings, the market for vinyl albums (old and new) is finally enjoying a renaissance, and with it, the return of the indie record store. Music lovers now have a choice between vinyl albums or digital downloads.
The same swing of the pendulum is occurring within the independent bookseller market. Book lovers and collectors, temporarily lured away from Main Street by Amazon, online booksellers, and big box stores such as Barnes & Noble with their promise of lower pricing, wider selections, and digitally-downloadable books on demand, are now driving the comeback of the local book store. They will tell you that nothing replaces the experience of looking through the stacks to discover something new to read in an environment designed to make book shopping an experience, and the book store, a destination. With the resurgence of newly-envisioned independent book stores comes reader choice – buy online or browse and buy locally.
Independent antique shops around the country are experiencing similar shifts in the market as shopping on the internet for antiques and collectibles has redefined what it means to go “antiquing.” Shop owners who have been in the business for decades have seen this erosion of in-store traffic affect their bottom line, turning to online options such as Facebook and eBay, investing in a website, and partnering with online auction companies to reach a broader customer base.
Collectors I speak with talk as much about the hunt as they do about their collection itself. The stories of acquisition are the heart and soul of their collection, and the reason they love to collect. Online auction and dealer sites help them access more of what they may be looking for but, many will say, the experience is less fulfilling. There is no “story” to go along with the item to make it more personally meaningful.
As the pendulum shifts again, it turns out there is a place for both a Brick and Mortar and Internet presence in a re-emerging market of antiques collectors and enthusiasts who value and long for the experience of the hunt and the thrill of the story. The interaction between buyer and seller is once again becoming more personal. Many of the new retail antique shops that have opened in the last couple of years have expanded their inventory to include a mix of vintage, re-purposed, and upcycled items to broaden their appeal. They are holding more in-store events and re-imagining the antique shop as a more aesthetically-appealing and inviting space.
Like the resurgence we are seeing in independent bookstores, record stores, and antique shops, there is also nostalgia and longing for the experience and personal engagement of reading a physical book or printed magazine that the digital dimension cannot replace. I am heartened by the renaissance these other industries and businesses are experiencing because it also speaks truth to the enduring power of print.
It may be easier, faster, and less wasteful to get your daily and up-to-the-minute news on a screen-based phone or device rather than from a newspaper, but when it comes to the publications you choose to pick up for your personal enjoyment, be it for business or pleasure, nothing beats print – for reading and advertising, say the experts.
Author Naomi Baron, who conducted research between 2013 and 2015 with students from 429 universities around the world, wrote in the New Republic (7/20/2016 issue) that the students in her study reported that print was aesthetically more enjoyable, saying things such as “I like the smell of paper” or that reading in print is “real reading.” What’s more, print gave them a sense of where they were in the book – they could “see” and “feel” where they were in the text. Print was also judged to be easier on the eyes and less likely to encourage multitasking. Recent neuroscience research is equally as encouraging, revealing that paper-based content and ads offer special advantages in connecting with our brains in terms of ease of understanding, motivation (persuasiveness) and attention (Forbes, 9/2015).
Our subscribers share the same sentiments. They enjoy the experience of sitting down with our magazine to read the articles and ads. They say they spend real time with us. Given the choice, I would dare to say the majority of our readers would prefer to read our magazine in its larger-size print format than on a tablet that limits the full impact print makes. That said, providing both options to our readers—a print and online version of the magazine—is the way to go, and we look forward to offering a digital option in 2018.
All of us here at the Journal of Antiques & Collectibles wish you a Happy Holiday and New Year filled with great finds and collecting experiences. Thank you for reading us and supporting us with your business and enthusiasm!
Columns, Publishers Corner
Publishers Corner: December 2017
The Gift of Print