Some Thoughts on Periodicals and Books

Today’s Uni Watch post is another edition of “Question Time,” in which site creator Paul Lukas answers questions from readers about himself. For the first time, I sent in a question, which asked about his favorite New York City bookstore (it’s the fourth question listed).

His answer that while he likes bookstores (and he names the Strand as his favorite, which made me happy), he prefers newsstands and magazine shops struck me because his approach to print culture is so different from my own. This difference is of course not a bad thing, because as long as you are on the print side of the print/electronic wars you are my friend, and Lukas is one of my favorite writers because his work always makes me think, and frequently helps me to see things (often literally things, i.e., objects) in new ways. But Lukas’s answer made me think about why I am not nearly as attracted to the periodical realm of print culture as I am to the book realm. Part of the reason is that my job is to analyze books, and this reason would also explain Lukas’s preference: he’s a journalist, so he’s attracted to other workers in the trade.

But I have to admit that one of the other reasons I am attracted more to books than periodicals is that books feel more permanent. They can sit there on my shelf and tell the story of my intellectual pursuits over the years, and when I buy one I feel a sense of accomplishment, and get that adrenaline rush that capitalism trains us to have when we acquire goods. While I have subscribed to the New Yorker for more than ten years along with a smattering of other periodicals here and there, there isn’t that feeling of excitement when it arrives in the mail that there is when a package containing books does. In fact, though I enjoy reading the New Yorker, it often feels like a task that I have to get through rather than a recreational endeavor like reading a book. So my preference says something about my reading habits: I am more willing to lose myself in a book because I know I will have to invest a lot of time in it, whereas with a magazine I feel like it will only be a quick, disposable interaction.

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