Print: How do I love thee. Let me count the ways…*

March 28, 2021

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

While Sonnet 43 by the inimitable Elizabeth Barrett Browning was written for her then husband-to-be, Robert Browning, I feel justified in borrowing it for this love poem to print. You see, I have had a life-long devotion to print. Well, life-long from the time I bought the first copy of Superman magazine at the age of 10 to the age I find myself now – with hopefully many more years to cherish her. Her being print.

If you ask me, Mr. Magazine™, how do I love thee – thee being print – I would say I love thee faithfully and loyally even though digital is a part of my life. But in this day and age, digital is a part of most everyone’s life, whether we necessarily like it or not.

Superman was the first magazine I bought in Tripoli, Lebanon in 1964 and I was hooked. Painting by Eric Summers

But print is a choice, an escape from the screens we live with so constantly today.But why do I love print? I have been asked this question many times over the years and the answer is simple, yet extremely consequential.

I would truly and publicly like to thank Peter Houston from Media Voices for referring to me as the “evangelist” of print. I think it is a fitting description for my relationship with ink on paper over these many years.

Print is unique in so many different ways than other platforms that have existed, will exist, or currently do exist. All the content in print is unique; what you see on page two isn’t the same as what’s on page three, as opposed to if you’re watching something on social media or on broadcast or hear on radio. You hear the same clip over and over. You can’t be repetitive in print; every story, every picture must be and is unique.

As a host of editors have told me over the years, the difference between putting something in  print versus something online, print takes more thought, more editing, even if it’s something inane and stupid that one might read on a social media post, it takes more time and consideration to put it into print. There is always that moment of hesitation where you stop and realise once printed, the words are permanent. No delete button on the printed page. Carefully considered, checked and curated…only print can be the medium that has that claim to fame.

And speaking of permanent, print is forever. There is a collectability and legacy to the printed page. Something that can last from the days of the Bible all the way to the 21st century and beyond. Permanence and collectability. Only print. Greek philosopher Parmenides believed that if you couldn’t hold it, touch it, feel it, it wasn’t real. The permanence of print then is very real.

Print legitimises. I have had innumerable artists and writers tell me that their work wasn’t legitimate until they saw it in print. And one editor after another who has told me that the celebrity on the cover of their magazine would only agree to that picture if it was on the cover of the print product. They never asked would they be featured on their webpage, only the magazine’s printed page. Doesn’t that speak volumes about the validity of print?

Print is finite and has purpose. Just like human beings, it has a lifecycle. There is a time to be born and a time to die. It’s not the never-ending story or the 24/7 story. It has a first page and a last page. Knowing that it won’t go on forever on this plane of existence gives it an earthly purpose, whether that is to inform, educate or entertain, print has a reason for being around.

And print is like a good friend, it doesn’t interrupt you while you’re reading it. There are no notifications, no bells and whistles going off, no dings or pings telling you something is trying to tear your attention from what you’re trying to do. It helps you focus on that horizontal projection of your eyes and you retain what you read. Your attention is zeroed in on that article, that piece of content that you are reading and you actually comprehend the words on the page. Print is focus.

And you have typography and photography displayed before you at the same time. It’s a winning combination that allows your mind to absorb that content. And along with the absorption, there is immense satisfaction and pleasure. Screen fatigue cannot offer you that. Only print.

Another important element of print is that sense of ownership. You own the print product, it’s in your hands. No one can take it away from you. You can throw it away, you can keep it, you can cherish it; no matter what type of relationship you want, you can have it, it’s yours. Try to get mad at something on the digital platform and see what happens. If you throw your phone across the room, you’ll have to buy another phone.

Print is a timesaver. You might scoff at that, but it’s true. If it’s well-done, well-curated, well-vetted, you’re getting the content that you want and need and you can trust it. It’s tried-and-true. You don’t have to trigger Google to go in search of it yourself. Experts have done it for you and put it between the pages of the magazine or the book that’s in your hands.

And print provides a real relationship and connection that you can enjoy time and time again. Print has become a necessary partner in these days and times. You can only have so many digital one-night-stands before you yearn for the real thing. That trusted and safe partner that gives you what you need when you need it.

With print there is an audio/visual power that can’t be denied. When the story is good, you can see the love in her eyes. When the apple pie is fresh out of the oven and baked just right, you can smell it and long to taste it. And with a good piece of print apple pie, you are satiated and feel complete. There is no digital piece that gives you that same sense of realism of being there. When the words come alive you can actually feel the movement of the people on the page and it no longer is just content, it becomes an experience. And it becomes your uninterrupted me-time.

If I’ve made you want to read a printed product, then I’ve achieved my mission with this love story to print. There is nothing like it, nor will there ever be. You can create a million websites with a billion pixels on the screen, but it will never replace the thrill, satisfaction and love you can feel for your favorite print magazine or book.

Print: How Do I Love Thee?
I love thee deeply and eternally.

Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.

*I wrote this column for FIPP Connecting Global Media and it was published on March 16 as part of their series on Print is the New Black.

One comment

  1. Reblogged this on NCMA.

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