People today are in need of authoritative voices, of correct information coming from trustworthy sources. The web has on its side the fact of being democratic, but anyone can write anything, hence the wide-spreading of fake news and poorly curated information. Daily newspapers are still being printed, and the newsstands are still open. While several culture and lifestyle magazines have resorted to digital copies for their latest issues, lifting the paywall off their websites while still witnessing an increase in their monthly subscriptions, they are also planning to go to print asap. There is a difference between being outdated and being timeless. The current pandemic is making it hard for magazines to go into print and distribution. While the internet is guaranteeing information and entertainment – in a period which would otherwise be a cultural desert and a potentially ground for the upraise of totalitarian governments – this situation has made it clear that digital cannot replace print for good.
In the last years small publisher and independent magazines have been growing non-stop. After the pandemic the market may shrink in line with global economies, and quite quickly. As Daniel McCabe, founder of Magalleria, puts it «There are too many titles selling the same subject matter, but with fewer people able to afford them something must change. As much as it disappoints me, economics may drive many publishers to digital rather than print. High quality print magazines nowever will survive and even prosper – those that are published quarterly or biannually will be come more popular than monthlies or shorter circulations».
Set in the county of Somerset – England, Bath is known for and named after its Roman-built baths. The city started of in 60 AD as a full-size spa, and in 1987 it became World Heritage site. Today it combines wellness culture with outstanding Georgian architecture, as well as being home to several museums and having a strong literary heritage. Jane Austen also lived in Bath for some years in the early 1800s and, although she never really took in to the city, her house is now a museum. Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are set in the city and describe taking the waters, social life, and music recitals.
The city also has two universities, Bath Spa University and the University of Bath, the latter was named University of the Year by The Sunday Times in 2011. Magalleria is a store specializing in magazines, artist’s books and zines – it is both an online and a physical store, stocking an international selection of what is already the best and what should be by rights considered the best. Magazines are Magalleria’s focus, and the store strives to scout and deliver and outstanding number of independent and niche publications together with the mainstream. The students of the two universities provide solid customer base, although, as Daniel McCabe states «We don’t have a typical customer type. We sell to people of all ages, who are possibly united by common interests – sport, music, fashion etc. We also have a dog who sleeps under our shop counter and I think many people come to see him».
Magalleria was launched in 2015 «I worked in publishing for decades, first in books and then in health communications – says McCabe – When some old friends who worked in book distribution sent us some sample magazines they were marketing we saw that these weren’t magazines as we remembered them but something more visually attractive, more like books; there didn’t seem to be anyone selling them in a specialist way, so we decided that it would be us». McCabe’s partner, Susan, worked as an archeologist in Milan many decades ago, just outside the city’s well-known Galleria (Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, next to the Duomo). She remembers the magazine and newspaper stands that she saw there – she put ‘magazine’ and ‘Galleria’ together and came up with Magalleria. «Magazines are tactile. They can be picked up, handled and they smell of ink – things that make a change from reading or taking information from a screen or digital device. More importantly magazines are agile in the sense that they can respond to events and roll with them, whereas internet reporting contains too many inaccuracies and books become outdated very quickly».
Magalleria buys from small publishers directly and from a few wholesalers. After five years it can now rightfully claim to have a better idea of what will sell. It used to be them reaching out to magazines, but now it’s the other way around. They look closely at what other more mainstream retailers are selling in order to differentiate their stock – despite a weak UK currency they’ve increased our importing to keep the list fresh and different from everyone else. People come from the neighboring Bristol to visit the physical shop, and tourists defy the laws of baggage allowance to fit in the latest edition of this or that art magazine. Magalleria is a small business with few employees which manage the whole of the activities. At the moment they are planning on starting to distribute rare magazines – those kind of editorial jewels which include rare illustrations, collection-covers or one-shots – as well as increasing their online selling. The website also features a blog which is kind of a literary web-zine per se, with McCabe’s insights on the newly arrived titles and an informed vision of the print industry.
22A Broad St,
Bath BA1 5LN,