When I was around the age of ten, I started making occasional trips to the local public library. There was a branch within walking distance and it offered an alternative to an otherwise boring summer. I enjoyed looking at science books and before long discovered the science fiction (SF) section. Thus began my informal summer reading program. I read Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Van Vogt, Fredric Brown, Sturgeon, Jack Williamson, Simak, and many others. These authors were part of what was later called the Golden Age of Science Fiction.
That I recall, in those days (late 1950s to mid-1960s) there was only one SF magazine that continuously made its way to the library periodicals shelf: Analog Science Fiction and Fact. I began reading it and found that I enjoyed Analog. John W. Campbell was the editor back then and is widely accredited with helping some of the Golden Age authors get their start. I also especially liked the art work of Kelly Freas. I sometimes purchased the latest issue of Analog at the book store and supplemented it with trips to the library.
My reading of Analog during my adult years was sporadic. This was a consequence of life’s demands and priorities. Even so, I always came back to Analog when my interest in SF was rekindled. There were several periods when I held a subscription to Analog but it never lasted for more than a year. That is, until about five years ago when Analog introduced a Kindle e-book version. The e-book subscription price was half of the print subscription price and well within my budget. I’ve been a subscriber ever since.
In a recent visit to my local library branch (part of the same county library system as before but not the same branch) I noticed they no longer carried the print version of Analog. The reference librarian explained that the print magazine no longer had the number of check-outs needed to support its continued subscription. She also confirmed that all the other branches of the library had already dropped their subscriptions.
It was those trips to the library decades ago that introduced me to Analog. Nowadays, it appears young readers become acquainted with publications through downloads. I have used this method myself to check-out free library e-book materials. Another thing that has changed in the world is there are now a number of SF magazines available (only) online.
It’s difficult for me to compare the download experience with the library experience. While I have fond memories of visiting the library, for the long haul I must admit the download experience is better – if for no other reason than far fewer young people growing up these days live within walking distance of a public library. Not that they would find an issue of Analog there even if they did!