New York Times Sells OutWas it the media history students, or the nostalgia fans, or the first-edition collectors? Maybe friends made The New York Times: The Complete Front Pages 1851-2008 the top Christmas gift choice for newspaper reporters who lost their jobs last year.
For whatever reason, in one month, someone has made the book and DVD-ROM collection a best-seller. The New York Times Store (nytstore.com) says its supply sold out -- at $60 a copy. Amazon and Books-a-Million are also sold out, but were offering the package at $37.80.
The Times Store says the collection is only "temporarily out of stock," and will be back sometime this month. (Note: My own copy is back-ordered. If another arrives as a belated Christmas or birthday present, I'll donate it to my university library and ask that it be put on reserve for students in my media history class.)
The Times store site carries one blurb promoting the book. For a subtle comment on the media world of today, notice the source:
“This satisfyingly hefty volume, with three accompanying DVD-ROMs, gives you access to 54,267 pages of pure undiluted history, reminding you of how the experience of reading the newspaper is at once public and intimate, of the enduring, essential, all-important power of the printed word.” – O, The Oprah Magazine
Hmm. The publisher's Web site, Black Dog & Leventhal, differs on the page count -- by one page:
"The 3 DVDs include each of the 54,266 front pages printed by the Times over the past 157 years. Completely searchable and user-friendly, the disks are designed to provide access to the full stories that made front-page news each day since the paper’s founding in 1851. Click on a page—the day you were born, for example—and you're instantly transported to the Times' online archive."
Of course you don't have to buy the book to search the historic back issues of the Times. Every page of every issue of the Times has been part of a searchable online archive for several years -- some of it free, the rest available on a pay-per-view basis to casual visitors, but also available to university students and library patrons through the Proquest Historical Newspapers service.
Audio reports on The Complete Front Pages:
- NPR's Robert Siegel interviews NYTimes executive editor Bill Keller, who wrote the book's introduction. "I like the ones that give you a sense of humility," Keller said, citing a headline skeptical of the future of Edison's electric light, and the way the Times downplayed Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
- WAMC's Joe Donahue interviews Times metro reporter James Baron, who wrote timeline summaries for the pages. Baron mentions that the stack of papers would be 300 feet taller than the Empire State Building.
If reading great journalism in PDF files on a computer screen interests you, you also should investigate The Complete New Yorker. The magazine's was founded in 1925, so you won't get the Times' 19th century perspective, but the DVD ROM edition of the New Yorker's weekly editions includes the full text of every page, including ads and cartoons. It's available for $39.99 on DVDs or $179.99 on a palm-size hard drive.
Now if Apple would just introduce a tablet-format Macintosh with internal DVD to read these things...
Footnote: Review -- The Platform: Front Pages by
Peter Osnos, The Century Foundation, 12/30/2008