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May 2010: Stylus Leaves a Void

Extra Fine Points Index  ]

BY DON FLUCKINGER • Working as an editor for Rockport Publishers back in the ’90s, I learned to understand, at a visceral level, the angst and frustration that go along with the triumph of writing a book and seeing the finished volumes on store shelves. Ever since, whenever I run into a book author, I congratulate him or her for accomplishing such a monumental feat — and it doesn't matter if the person wrote a silly little book on an esoteric topic or a physics textbook. They're all labors of love, most of which don't pay nearly enough to elevate the author's paycheck much past what Burger King pays these days.

Books are labors of love, most of which don't pay nearly enough to elevate the author's paycheck much past what Burger King pays these days. Niche magazines like Stylus are in the same boat. Extra Fine Points

Niche magazines like Stylus are in the same boat. A labor of love, to be respected for what it is: Hobby-minded folks who are edifying your favorite category of antiques (and its modern counterpart). We received the news that the publication will cease its paper edition, after going down in frequency to a quarterly magazine from a bimonthly, with mixed emotions.

Stylus issue 1

Stylus Magazine, the first issue
October/November 2003

On one hand, paper is going away everywhere. Stylus's story has been repeated everywhere, from pillar-of-journalism newspapers like the 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News to seemingly impervious-to-recession magazines like Gourmet, both of which are gone. Richard has never even published a print edition of his original content here, it's been online from the start — save calendars and blotters, which aren't exactly books or newspapers.

As for my professional career as a freelance writer, so many of my paper-based clients cut back or ceased publication that I blew up the business and joined a Web publishing company at the beginning of this year; in my position, I write articles for a Web site. On top of that, I'm creating podcasts, video interviews, and virtual trade show sessions — all content types paper can't support, and none of which require postage or printing costs.

Stylus issue 1

Stylus Magazine, the last issue
Spring 2010

So, Stylus, there's no shame in going the way of the Rocky Mountain News. There's a lot of that going around. We, the pen collecting community, salute all the long hours and angst-filled meetings that went with what must have been a great feeling to see your wonderfully colorful issues come off the press. And thank you for giving a platform for the collective wisdom of veterans like Howard Edelstein, Paul Erano, and Richard — who gave us pointers on collecting, appreciating, caring for and writing with our favorite pens.

In this publishing business, having worked for a newspaper, magazines, a couple book publishers, trade papers, newsletters, and many Web sites over the last 20 years, I've watched the evolution of the business from a completely paper model with a few adjunct Web sites to a Web-driven business with the people left on paper struggling to keep it going.

At first the Web was all flash and no cash; now that venture capitalists are a lot smarter, it seems like the more fanciful Web sites are getting weeded out, and the sites that can figure out how to get both user and advertiser support are standing on their own … and some content-based Web sites are turning into viable businesses.

At the moment, the pen hobby's online presence is an ad-hoc topography. We all have our bookmarks, but there's no definitive URL driven by news and an active user community.

Whatever is to follow, we wish you well, Stylus.

As for us, we'll just keep the home fires burning, writing with our antiquated fountain pens on that increasingly antiquated substrate, paper. Dinosaurs, all of us.

Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site. Don Fluckinger
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