I’ve recently found myself guilty of doomscrolling. When I have a spare moment, I’ll pick up my phone and mindlessly scroll through Twitter, or a news website, and read or re-read about the most horrible things that are happening in world today. I caught myself doing it, and I wondered how much of my time I’m wasting on things other people want me to read, rather than choosing to read things I’m actually interested in.
When I was a kid, I used to subscribe to magazines. One in particular was NGC, an unofficial Nintendo magazine from the Gamecube era. Remembering their website, gamesradar.com, I went to see what’s there now and found an article from Retro Gamer magazine about the making of TimeSplitters, a series of games I owned and loved. The experience of finding and reading something because I wanted to was a joyful and calming feeling.
I recently discovered an app called Libby, made by a company called Overdrive. Libby is a digital library catalogue, which offers you eBooks, audiobooks and magazines for free through your local library. You just sign up with your library card. After reading their article, I searched for Retro Gamer in Libby and subscribed. I also found some other magazines in the technical, gaming and music categories that I’d bought before, and subscribed to them, all for free. I decided that instead of opening Twitter in my moments of downtime, I’d open a magazine.
Using Libby is an excellent experience. Magazines can be viewed as a digital version of the print layout, scrolled and zoomed, but you can also select the articles on each page to have them presented in a re-flowed “reader” view, like you see on most modern web browsers. As I’m mainly using Libby on my phone, this works very nicely.
Libby can be installed on your mobile device, but it’s also a web app. Going to libbyapp.com gives you 90% of the same experience, and it syncs between devices. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Reading a publication designed for A4 sheets of paper on my phone, I of course started mulling over the possibility of a tablet or e-reader for this purpose. But the reason this works so well for me is that my phone is pocketable, so its always there in those moments of downtime.
The app aside, reading magazines again is a breath of fresh air. In the 15 years since I last had a subscription, the web has become an appalling place to consume content (the irony is not lost on me, dear reader). A million things are trying to take your attention, get your consent, harvest your email address, get you to go to this page instead of this one… with a magazine, it’s just you and an article.