Once upon a time, a creative seeking contemporary visual inspiration might trawl a university library’s new journal shelves. Now there are 25 million magazines online at Issuu, free-to-read and in handy flip-book format. The art / design / fashion section of Issuu is a fascinating insight into what editors have cared enough about to produce a proper designed and curated magazine for. Issuu is especially good for fashion students, with middleweight industry magazines such as WWB and MWB publishing on Issuu…
The highly curated nature of many Issuu magazines means that spotting subtle forward cultural trends may be easier than amid the manic/nostalgist jumble of Pinterest.
Issuu’s native search box isn’t great, at least for the sort of one-word searches its users are likely to use. “academic” plunges one into a wasteland of old university course catalogs and redundant student guides. “Scholarly” is only marginally better.
Many other publishers, such as Texas Wildlife magazine, don’t seem to know how to get their magazine’s text indexed by Google. Even if they did, one suspects that it may not be the greatest search experience — searching against a whole run-on block of text, that’s been auto-extracted from a PDF.
What about getting a date-ordered single page of a title’s issues? Publishers on Issuu can at least, if they wish, produce ‘stacks’ from their magazine issues. Japan’s International Academic Forum (IAFOR), for instance, does this here. But their sub-stack for IAFOR journals is rather lumpen and fails to present ordered runs of their titles. Luckily, in their case, the issues are also online in PDF.
The similar jumbling of dates at Issuu for the Illumination: the Undergraduate Journal of Humanities stack suggest that re-ordering titles by publication date, rather than by upload date, may not actually be possible? Just my guess.
Regrettably Issuu doesn’t let Google index http://issuu.com/*/stacks/ Or perhaps the Googlebot just didn’t feel the need to do so?
Occasionally one gets only a truncated preview at Issuu, such as the venerable British Journal of Photography or the previews of the V&A Museum books, but most titles appear to be complete. Sometimes a little too complete, hem hem. Issuu might add a useful icon or two: indicating ‘sample only’ and ‘flagged by users as possibly pirated’.
Issuu’s somewhat mainstream tilt nicely complements pdf-mags.com, a similar well-established free magazine flipbook site that veers more towards the indie fashion / artzine / perzine end of the spectrum. The print-focussed MagCloud store, until recently owned by HP, also has a modest ‘free to read online’ section…
Creative students and faculty will still benefit from grabbing an armful of current print magazine from the library shelves — especially the elite photography, architecture/design, fashion and fine art publications. But thanks to Issuu and their ilk now the rest of us can also have a similar experience, albeit minus the likes of Vogue, Aperture and similar.
(Update: my fuller survey of titles on Issuu)