In this week's installment of I Love Reading I want to talk about the kind of reading that is not books, not news, not blogs, but something in between. It demands a little bit more of your attention span than Twitter, but maybe not as much as your book group's latest pick. It can be from last week or fifteen years ago, and still be relevant to today. It can be a true tale of crime and punishment, an industry exposé, an interview or profile of a famous figure, an in-depth review, or a speech. It could be a short story, nonfiction, or an interpretation or some kind. In my opinion, it makes the best kind of reading for airplanes, waiting rooms, the subway, and my couch. You won't exactly find it on the shelves in the library, unless you know where to look. It's the 'long read.'
While the future of niche news weeklies may not be as dire as other consumer magazines, things are changing rapidly. Tablets and ereaders are becoming more ubiquitous and our reading habits are changing too.
While most of us are content to catch up on the news and the latest short blog posts on our computers at our desks, an eight-thousand word essay is a different story. It requires us to temporarily mute the pings of our inboxes, recline slightly, and maybe even brew a cup of tea. Another thing — we don't want to have to depend on an active Internet connection to do this reading — airplanes and subway cars are two of the best places to read long articles, and they also happen to be the least connected. (The horror... what if you forget to bring a magazine with you and the only thing to look at is SkyMall?!) Thankfully, a few years ago software developers realized this and started working on solutions.
Instapaper, Readability, and Read It Later are three examples of apps (or Send-to-Kindle services) for various devices that let you save long articles for reading later, storing them offline on your device so you can read them whether or not you have access to the Internet.
The other great thing about these services is that they work together (using the magic of APIs) with other apps you may have installed to create a seamless sharing-to-saving experience. Checking Twitter updates on your iPad and see a cool article? Send it to Instapaper. Reading RSS feeds on your PC and find something that looks fascinating but is several pages long? Send it to Read It Later. Did your boss send a link to your email of an article that you really should read? Open the link in Firefox and then click a bookmarklet to add it to Readability.
givemesomethingtoread.com works with Instapaper to do just that. Click the "read later" button and you'll have the articles of your choice ready the next time you load the app.
longreads.com features both curated and community picks for articles. It also has a handy search feature and lets you browse by length. The site started as a Twitter hashtag, #longreads, that the creator Mark Armstrong encouraged friends and followers to use to share this type of writing more broadly.
longform.org lets you see the latest picks or browse the archive organized by topic, writer, source, year, subject tag and story type.
@ifyouonly read one thing today... the editor suggests and tweets a link each day.
The Back Issues blog from The New Yorker's archivists revists older articles that may warrant another look based on current events. Today's post? Calvin Trillin on Mardi Gras, a piece from 1998.
Readings about long form reading
- "How Technology Is Renewing Attention to Long-form Journalism," Poynter, 8/12/10
- "Long-form journalism starts a new chapter," The Guardian, 8/29/10
- "Long-Form Journalism Finds an Online Friend," The New York Times' Gadgetwise, 11/4/10
- "When a Web Community Becomes a Book Publisher," The Atlantic, 1/18/12
- "The Long and Short of New York Magazine’s Longreads," The New York Observer, 2/1/12
Long Reads at the Library
Find journals and magazines you can access online with your library card; search by title using this tool.
Many, including Mother Jones, Vanity Fair, New York, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Economist, and Esquire, can be found in Academic One File. The embargo period may vary, but it just means that you have to wait to see the latest content. While it's true much of this can be found for free online, there might be instances where you want something older that is behind a paywall, or to search across multiple titles for articles on a single topic.
The New York Review of Books is now available to search and browse on site at any library location. (Read more about NYRB in Ray's post.)
Love reading articles? Stop by the DeWitt Wallace Periodicals Room in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building for general as well as obscure magazines, journals, and zines, and learn more about the history of this industry in New York City.
What good, lengthy articles have you enjoyed recently?