Monday, February 18, 2013

It May Not Pay After All

I got the bad news today: Reader's Digest has filed for bankruptcy.  I shouldn't be surprised.  I know how I feel when  restaurant or a little shop I like closes, and I feel guilty because I haven't stopped in for awhile.   I quit taking the lovely little magazine myself a few years ago.  Since I have so much I must read for my job, I couldn't always justify this subscription, which invariably ended up in the bathroom, the perfect place for reading it's short pieces--condensed articles gleaned from other publications--and the funnies. Just as now I claim to get the New Yorker for the writing, not for the cartoons (and just as some men claim they don't buy Playboy for the pictures), I really liked the little jokes in Reader's Digest.  In fact, I finally decided that many urban legends could be traced back to them.  (I know it was the source for the story told for truth in every small town in America about the woman sitting immobilized in a grocery store parking lot, believing she'd been shot in the back of her head, when her canned biscuits had really exploded and hit her.)

My first introduction to Reader's Digest came when I was barely literate.  I had learned to write--names mostly--and as I flipped through a copy of good old RD at my grandmother's house, out fluttered one of those annoying cards.  Practicing my new penmanship skills, I filled it out--my father's name and address, my grandmother's name and address, and my great grandmother's name and address.  I walked it out to the mailbox, placed the card inside, lifted then flag, and promptly forgot about it--until I saw the mail truck pass. I confessed my deeds, and my dad, wearing a stern face that must have hidden amusement, promised he would pay for all three subscriptions if I would promise to administer to him the test called "It Pays to Increase Your Word Power" every month when the new issue arrived.  I kept my word.

As it turns out, my older relatives kept taking the magazine until their deaths, as far as I know.  I suspect that amid the Southern Living and Family Circle at Mom and Dad's house, there have been copies of Reader's Digest until now.  In fact, they still read the Condensed Books, which I suspect exist mainly for props at the High Point Furniture Market. 

I've moved away, so I have given Daddy the word power test in years, but he has continued to call me and gloat whenever he's score 19 or 20 right.  I'll admit that I've done the same myself.

R. I. P. little magazine.

1 comment:

Linda H. said...

This IS sad. I, too, used to like reading it when I lived in the states, for all the same reasons you listed.

My daughter is considering a job in publishing, perhaps translating books from English to German, reading for audiobooks, as well as the regular duties. However, when I mentioned this to a friend who has a friend in publishing, she advised us against it. Seriously! She said due to ebooks and newer methods, print sources have decreased sales and many publishers, even big long-standing ones, are struggling.

I've heard such rumors for the past years but never took them seriously, because I love holding a book in my hands, reading magazines, etc. I hope it isn't as bad as they say, and I won't discourage Katarina from going into the business if that is what she really wants to do (she is considering other fields as well).

This was a good post, Nancy. Sad but good. I can't believe you filled out those cards and sent them!!! (and got away with it, you sly devil) I think your father handled it wonderfully. Not sure my father would have done that, even if we could have afforded it.