Confession: I’ve been a magazine junkie since my mother subscribed to five different movie star fan magazines in the 1960s (anyone remember Photoplay?). My tastes have changed, but I still feel the same about magazines in general: I want to read them all, or at least look at them all. Leave me alone at an airport magazine newsstand and I may miss my flight. I earn some freelance income by researching the magazine industry for a media newsletter/database. I get paid to write for magazines, and to help others learn to write for them. So I have personal and professional interests in seeing the print media industry survive. I hate that the industry is so challenged lately that many magazines are currently offering subscriptions for $5 a year.
And yet, I’m also a consumer with kids and a house and tuition bills, and after all, who can afford to subscribe to all the magazines, newspapers, and journals one wants? But no writer can go cold turkey either. As for mainstream media, I subscribe to the New Yorker (at a discounted rate), to the Sunday New York Times (where they’ve never heard of a discount for loyal 20-plus year subscribers), to More and O-The Oprah Magazine (discount again, and because of the good quality of nonfiction, memoir/essay pieces each month). For the sports fanatic son, I keep Sports Illustrated on automatic renewal, as well as Wired, for the tech-loving son. My mother renews Consumer Reports for us every December.
Then, each year for the last ten, I’ve used up a few hundred of the thousands of accumulated miles on an airline I will never fly again, to order one-year subs, alternating between The Atlantic Monthly, Smithsonian, Gourmet (alas, I was as sad as every other foodie magazine lover when it died a few weeks ago), Newsweek or Time, Discover, Self, Redbook, Real Simple, New York, New Jersey Monthly, ESPN The Magazine, occasionally People, and anything else which looks good to me at the moment. When I pay my dues, I get The AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and I subscribe to Poets & Writers.
When it comes to literary journals, I alternate subscribing to one or two of the major nonfiction-only titles – Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, or River Teeth. If I enter a writing contest sponsored by a quality journal, I’m always glad when the entry fee entitles me to an annual subscription, or even a single issue. As for all the other fine literary journals I’ve love to see in my living room: If I can do so through the journal’s website, I buy a single copy when a piece by a writing friend appears in its pages (sometimes I’m a bit late, like this morning, when I ordered the Summer 2008 issue of Alimentum because my friend Penelope Schwartz Robinson’s essay there was just included as a notable essay in 2008 Best American Essays). And I take a one-year subscription to any journal which publishes my work (okay, a decidedly small sample, but there you go). It’s not a scientific method, but I like to think that in this way, I’m doing my part to support literary journals.
When I’m finished with a big pile of magazines, I tote some down to the free bin at my local library. I pass some on to relatives, and the writing-related ones along to students. My approach may take my budget into account, but still outstrips my ability to actually read everything that arrives; and so, my house ends up looking the overflow room of a magazine printing factory. This was helpful when my kids were younger and needed to cut pictures out of magazines for school projects, but not so much anymore. No matter how many clever ways I find to stash, store, or stack them, they keep eating up space. I’m thinking of finding a way to artfully pile them up in front of the drafty windows everywhere in my old house and cut our heating bills.
I’m curious what others do about magazines and journals. Are they accumulating in every room of your house too? How do you budget for magazines and journals? As for books, don't get me started.