The New Inquiry Magazine

by Steve

Cover of The New Inquiry issue one

So, a follow-up to my Longreads love. After mulling over how publishing long essays/articles online could possibly be a sustainable business model/long-term enterprise, one of the best purveyors of said essayage (that’s a word, right?), The New Inquiry, have published the first issue of their new monthly online magazine. At $2/£1.25 an issue I subscribed as I was curious to see how it would look and read, and the Amazon payments mechanism was frighteningly easy. Oh, and it turns out it is excellent.

I’m not suggesting I’m a “never mind the quality, feel the width” kind of guy, but 130 pages for the price is pretty hard to argue with. It is cleverly, if simply, designed, so it reads as well on my laptop as it does on my phone and I’m sure would look good printed out. But it does illustrate the limitations of online publications – I’m guessing there is only so much you can do without compromising how well it translates across a variety of readers. Some great images chosen though.

But as you’d hope, the content is the real strength. It seems to be a mix of already-published-online stuff and new content, but all sits under the umbrella of issue one’s theme of precarity. Theming the issues seems a good way of making a lot of different articles and styles of writing sit comfortably next to one another and makes it feel more like a proper reading experience than a bunch of articles thrown together in a pdf. It will be interesting to see what themes follow, but I hope they keep them broad enough to encompass a wide variety of subjects in the one issue. Seeing precarity portrayed,explored and explained in its many guises is making for a satisfying and thought-provoking reading experience.

It’s been a while since I’ve read and then reread an article, but have done so already with a couple of pieces in this issue. There have been plenty of points put across that have made me think differently about things, or have at least challenged me to think outside my own little narrow worldview. That is probably worth my $2/£1.25 entrance fee. The quality of the writing and some of the arguments made about writing have made me feel a little inferior though…but that is perhaps another story for another time. A time when I feel comfortable inflicting my neuroses on you all. Y’know, old school blogging.

Anyway, will this new magazine work? I guess the trite answer is that we will see. But I think it has a lot going for it. Quality writing and sensitive design never hurt. They haven’t tried to be too clever with the concept – buying a downloadable magazine is pretty easy for anyone to understand. I’m pleased they avoided any fancy app-ery and left the content front and centre.

And the price seems low enough that most people can afford to risk trying it out at least once. While I appreciate there are plenty of people who will forever want something for nothing, I (and I hope others) fall in the camp of liking free stuff, but being willing to pay for something if the quality, thought and effort is there. The free nature of 99% of the internet has just made me less tolerant of buying crap. But I am happy to pay when I’m offered something good, and the payment mechanism is easy. If there are more people like me out there, this venture should work, because it is worth $2 of anyone’s money.

Now I feel a little silly reviewing what is kind of a selection of reviews. I feel like doing this is almost going against the spirit of the exercise of the magazine, which favours intelligent thought over the immediate-and-ill-thought-out-ness of much of the internet. I may respond to that issue or similar in a future post, and I may try to find a more robust, meaningful form of blogging/writing. Or I may continue with the same old nonsense. But at least I’ll have considered something better. And that’s a start, right?