Books vs. Magazines

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Why do books hold more enduring value than magazines?

Books and magazines have been outlets for creative expression since printing presses made them viable options for creative production. Today, though, the magazine industry seems straddled over digital and print options—and after the editions are printed, they are slowly extinguished in a swirl of ephemeral media (print letters, circulars, magazines), while books re-circulate in libraries, used bookstores, and personal collections.

Is it fair and accurate to say that books hold more enduring value than magazines? If so, why do books hold their value more so than magazines? If a book held the exact same content as a magazine, would its life cycle be different? Is the fate of these publications dictated by their binding and paper type, or are there cultural undertones that determine if these media flourish?

  • There are surely many ways that one could approach this topic -- historically, materially, economically, reception studies, seriality studies, gender studies, etc. -- but for the sake of a Helpful Note, I will comment on only one dimension of the issue: for roughly the first two hundred years of the existence of "the novel" as a distinct literary genre, the vast majority of novels were originally published serially in magazines. I'm not sure if this factor simplifies or complicates your original query, but it offers tangible cases with which we might respond to your "If a book held the exact same content as a magazine" hypothetical, since the complete works of Charles Dickens (for example) can be described as being (more or less) identical to content that initially appeared in magazines. What this essentially tells us is that the "book-magazine dichotomy" began simply as a difference in media, whereby the connotations of them emblematizing key differences in content/form/genre came later. For me, this brings to mind two follow-up questions: 1) Would the novels of Dickens have been able to achieve the degree popularity of popularity they went on to enjoy if they had never been decoupled from the material vessel of magazine pages and republished as autonomous books? 2) Given that novels today are seldom published initially in magazines, what factors lead to the separation of content/form/genre that we now associate with the two variants of print media, and how has the concretization of those associations impacted our subsequent expectations and/or beliefs about each medium's limits and potential? – ProtoCanon 1 year ago