A lot of magazines host subscription-service archives of old content, so it’s not an especially new idea, but nonetheless it can be interesting to see a new spin on it. The Wall Street Journal reports that Esquire has just completed a searchable online archive of 1,000 issues of content over 82 years of its life, for which it will charge $5 per month or $45 per year to let consumers access. Not much more than the cost of a regular magazine subscription, for access to every magazine Esquire has ever published.
That’s an invaluable archive to historians, researchers, or anyone who just wants something interesting to read, but a more interesting to me is how this archive intersects with mobile device technology. Esquire is partnering with Shazam to include content in current issues that can be photographed with the Shazam app to pull up information from the archives.
This is news to me, as I knew Shazam as the app I keep on my phone to tell me the artist and title of whatever interesting song I should happen to hear over the speakers of the restaurant where I’m eating out. It’s recognized songs like “Time and Tide” by Basia, or “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele that interested me but I’d never have been able to identify on my own. I hadn’t even known it could do photos now, but it turns out it added that capability back in May, at least for specially-tagged photos that advertisers can use. Esquire’s use of the technology is apparently free (or at least cross-promotional), but advertisers might add it down the road and would have to pay for it.
Another interesting thing is that anyone who has access to a good library wouldn’t necessarily have to pay for the archive at all, at least for relatively recent articles. Esquire is indexed in full text in EBSCOhost’s Masterfile Premier index. Checking Masterfile Premier index for “Esquire” full-text articles pulls up 10,503 results from 1996 through 2015.
I was writing about magazine indexes such as EBSCOhost as potential sources for e-reading material all the way back in 2001 for my Themestream column. They offer full-text articles from many, many magazines, including actual stories from F&SF, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
I wonder why they haven’t looked into repurposing their archives with a more direct-to-consumer focus, selling affordable subscriptions to individuals that they could use to load up their Kindles or whatever e-reader they prefer with material from hundreds of magazines. Even now, EBSCOhost is focused only on serving institutions, telling individuals such as students to go check with them, and libraries generally aren’t the place you think to go to find digital magazine articles.
If you should get that idea, it is a little awkward, but nonetheless you can save EBSCO articles as HTML (where available) or PDF using the “save” button from the “Detailed Record” interface. Or you can even share them via social media, assuming the person who gets the share has a library that subscribes. (For example, here’s a link to “Rascal Saturday” by Richard Bowes, from the September, 2015 issue of F&SF, as a PDF. You can read or download it if your library subscribes!)
Of course, Esquire’s archive will be more complete, and may very well be easier to use and richer in terms of the forms of media available. They have the profit motive to make it so, while magazine indexes continue serving libraries and institutions that are less lucrative. After all, libraries don’t pay all that much for a resource they make available to their own patrons for free. Commercial magazine archives like Esquire’s can make a lot more money charging customers individually.