There is nothing quite like reading a physical magazine
Don't call me insane just yet, hear me out!
I’m left smiling at the Chopard ad on the back cover of Hagerty Drivers Club Issue 67. Caught in the moment, I mentally look back at the articles I’ve just read and smile. Over 100 pages of stories pulled straight from the fingers of automotive enthusiasts such as myself and framed beautifully within the pages of a magazine the size of a small painting. McKeel Hagerty said it best on the last page: “moments are those times that you revisit over and over in your dreams. The ones that you tell stories about. The ones that become part of your life’s travelogue.” Well, some of my best moments are spent between the pages of my collection of automotive magazines.
I started collecting these magazines just a few years ago, but I haven’t given them the attention they deserved. Often I would flick through the pages, simply admiring the photographs but not reading the words that give much more meaning to those still captures of life. Thankfully, that all changed recently and I was not prepared for the joy that change would bring into my daily routine.
In mid-September, I landed a job at the California Automobile Museum, Sacramento’s little oasis for car enthusiasts. Apart from the stunning collections of automobiles, the museum is also host to a vast library of automotive literature ranging from your run-of-the-mill magazines to owner’s manuals, antique advertisement brochures, and everything in between. With this expansive collection an arm’s reach away and my curiosity piqued, I thought I’d take a gander at Road & Track’s “Analog” issue that was casually lying on our “Free Magazines” table. I was attracted by the minimalist front cover, showing an intimate close-up of an Alfa Romeo 158. Peeling open the heavy cardstock cover was like taking the first sip of soda as a kid. I was hooked. The magazine’s feature-focused layout was like reading ten 6-paged books one after the other with each one telling a radically different, yet also connected story. The heartfelt words those writers poured onto the pages sang like symphonies in my head and painted pictures beyond those captured on the pages. It felt like I was really there, admiring the lines on that MG right alongside Peter Egan.
Since that fateful day almost a month ago, I’ve ventured into Car & Driver, MotorTrend, and a number of other publications to learn about cars I might have been otherwise blind to but most of all, dive headfirst into the different writing styles each magazine provided.
Now, this article isn’t about advertising magazines you’ve already heard of. I’m a writer, not an ad agency. What I do want to get across with my keyboard here is the feeling of a magazine. Holding these bound pages, observing the light bouncing off the shiny cover, hearing the all-too-familiar sound of flipping through the pages, and discovering something new after each one is a profound feeling of bliss, peacefulness, and familiarity.
It’s the same with any physical media, be it CDs, cassettes, vinyls, or books. There is something satisfying about seeing that record spin and understanding the various mechanical components that all work in perfect harmony to make beautiful music come forth from the grooves. With magazines, there’s something about the physicality of flipping past the cover and moving my hand across the ink laid out on each page that’s oddly primal. Humans evolved hands to hold tools, build houses, swing weapons, and just plain create things. I think that sticking to these kinds of printed media connects us, in some way, to our ancestors whose hands tirelessly worked day and night at tasks both large and small. You can’t get that from a few pixels on a screen.
As online media largely overshadows books, magazines, and newspapers, I strongly believe they will never fully die. Just look at the resurgence of vinyls as an example. Sure, records will never be as mainstream as streaming music through Spotify or Pandora is, but they still retain a niche audience that is headstrong and hell-bent on keeping them alive. The same is bound to happen with the print magazines I love so dearly and frankly, I couldn’t be happier. Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I have some back issues of Super Street that are calling my name.