Even with the social bookmarking sites, reading from the internet is like drinking from a fire hose. What I’d like to see is highly selective bookmarking site, and in particular, the one I’d love to have most would be Best Essays From Printed Magazines. The top writing on the net is usually reprinted from the major print magazines, but those essays are overshadowed by the gigantic volume of web journalism. Hey, I’m a blogger and love getting readers, and I love reading blogs, but the heaviest of the heavy duty essays are still from print magazines. The cutthroat survival of the fittest in the print magazine industry by its very nature acquires the best writing.
That’s why I’d like a site that helps me find the best essays over 1,000 words. Adding the length requirement is important because too many magazines have gone to filling up their pages with short web level writing. Social bookmarking sites like delicious and StumbleUpon are great for snacking on popcorn and candy level reads, but not so yummy if you’re looking for literary steak. Yes, they will link to long quality essays from printed magazines, but you have to wade through zillions of peanut size stories of questionable value, more akin to Television’s funniest videos in informational nutrition.
No, I want a site that’s very specific and limited. I’d like an editorial board that selects the Top 100 magazines that publishes their content on the web, and offers a system that lets users bookmark and vote on the best essays they are reading. Hell, I’d even pay to subscribe to such a site if they got permission to reprint articles that don’t get reprinted on the web.
The web has gotten too big and mangy, so when I want to know something I go to a specific site, mainly Wikipedia. I’ve given up subscribing to magazines, mainly because I’m against paper for environmental reasons, but also because when I was subscribing to dozens of magazines, all too often I’d only find a good article here and there. Most of the content was filler, like the web. I guess I’ve gotten spoiled by the iTunes model – who wants to buy an album when it’s the hit song you want. This is why I prefer Netflix to cable TV. We need more ways to cut out the noise.
Here’s are examples of the kind of long essays I’d like to read:
- Publish or Perish (The New Yorker)
- How to Save the News (The Atlantic)
- Geek Power: Steven Levy Revisits Tech Titans, Hackers, Idealists (Wired)
- A Draft Sequence of the Neandertal Genome (Science)
- Yes, Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare (Times Literary Supplement)
- L.A.’s Pot Revolution (Reason)
- Green Giant (The New Yorker)
I guess what I really want is a web version of the Best American Series to be published monthly, instead of the yearly printed volumes they have now. And if they wanted to make extra money, reprint the monthly web site editions as ebooks for $9.99 for Kindles, Nooks, iPads, etc.
JWH – 5/12/10