Out of the basement with back issues of NY'er

Source: 80 Years of The New Yorker to Be Offered in Disc Form - New York Times

The New Yorker, the weekly magazine that started as "a hectic book of gossip, cartoons and facetiae," as Louis Menand once wrote, and has evolved into a citadel of narrative nonfiction and investigative reporting, will publish its entire 80-year archives on searchable computer discs this fall.

The collection, titled "The Complete New Yorker," will consist of eight DVD's containing high-resolution digital images of every page of the 4,109 issues of the magazine from February 1925 through the 80th anniversary issue, published last February. Included on the discs will be "every cover, every piece of writing, every drawing, listing, newsbreak, poem and advertisement," David Remnick, editor of the magazine, has written in an introduction to the collection.

The collection, which will also include a 123-page book containing Mr. Remnick's essay, a New Yorker timeline and highlights of selected pages from the magazine, is being published by the magazine and will be distributed to stores by Random House. It will have a cover price of $100, although it is likely to be sold in many bookstores and online for considerably less. The magazine also plans to issue annual updates to the disc collection, and it expects a first printing of 200,000 copies.

While innumerable neurotic New Yorker fanatics have saved piles of the magazine in closets or basements, the few easily accessible archives of the magazine's contents have been on microfilm or in bound volumes in public libraries. But those media hold little attraction for younger readers, Mr. Remnick said, and too frequently go unused. "Students who rely on Google as a turbo-charged Library of Alexandria feel no more eager to use microfilm than they do to pick up a protractor and a needle-nosed compass," Mr. Remnick states in his introduction.

The project is an amalgam of technology, stealth, insurance considerations and economics that was first discussed more than seven years ago. It was overseen, and long kept secret, by Edward Klaris, general counsel for the magazine, and Pamela Maffei McCarthy, its deputy editor. In early 2004, two staff members drove two copies of each issue of the magazine to Kansas City in a rented truck to have them digitally scanned.

The magazine's card catalog, which over time has come to include more than 1.5 million index cards containing citations and cross-references to articles and which forms the backbone of the search function on the discs, was scanned at the magazine's office in Manhattan after discussions with the publication's insurance company found the catalog to be "irreplaceable and beyond value," Mr. Remnick said.

It was only recently that digital technologies evolved to allow for the high-resolution reproduction of small type, making the project feasible, Mr. Klaris said. Digital videodiscs were used rather than CD's, he said, because much more information can be stored on each DVD. The DVD's are for use only in a computer drive, however, and will not work on a television DVD player.

A user of the disc is presented with each page of the magazine, which can be displayed singularly or in pairs, and the viewer can flip from page to page through each issue. Alternatively, a user can search on any disc for an author, artist, title or subject or by key words, and then move to the appropriate disc to view the material. Copies of the cover images can also be viewed in close-up detail or in thumbnail collections.

The collection also has one other important feature, which allows a reader to page through each magazine by flipping directly to the cartoons. As Mr. Remnick admits, "Ninety percent of our subscribers say they read the cartoons first, and the rest would be lying."

by Edward Wyatt