What’s interesting about these advertisements from 1884 is that they appear on the back cover of an anthology of English poetry published by Funk & Wagnalls, a volume of something called the Standard Library — evidently an ancestor to Dr. Eliot’s Five-Foot Shelf, Penguin Classics, and other such series of canonical works. It’s funny that nowadays we aren’t surprised by magazines where advertising takes up half or more of the content, but find the idea of an ad on a book — even a mass-market paperback — a little shocking. But then books are things we plan on keeping around, whereas magazines are inherently disposable.
I think about that distinction a lot, since I’m so involved in publishing a magazine online, where the average shelf-life of blogs and zines is even shorter than the xeroxed little magazines of yore. (Do the 1970s qualify as “yore” yet?) On the one hand, I accept the reality that nothing is forever, and transience is inherent in all things. On the other hand, why should artists and authors entrust their works to qarrtsiluni if it isn’t going to be around in five or ten years? Unlike a print publication, there’s no tangible artifact to sit on a shelf somewhere, gathering dust. Don’t we owe it to our contributors to keep their works online as long as possible? We’re not paying them anything, so it seems like the least we can do.
I spent much of this weekend pulling together qartsiluni‘s first-ever podcast for the Water issue, in case anyone wonders where the hell I’ve been. And my other project involved making a more secure archive for our news microblog, which will still originate on Twitter (for the time being, at any rate), but now has its main presence on the imaginatively named qarrtsiluni news blog.
Now that qarrtsiluni has a blog, perhaps its own ambiguous nature — half-blog, half-magazine — will be a little less obvious. Or maybe adding a podcast dimension simply makes our precise identity even more difficult to pin down. The Standard Library was clearly a bit of a hybrid, too, appearing bi-monthly “bound in postal card manilla,” available by annual subscription, but offered also in cloth editions and clearly meant to be permanent. Over a century later, the paper is still in fine shape — nothing like some of the pulp fiction I have from the 1940s and 50s that crumbles at the touch. Chalk it up, perhaps, to all those vitalized phos-phites.