Mooks are here to stay

13/01/2014

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Since the glorious launch in 2008 of XXI, which will be celebrating its 25th issue this winter, ‘mooks’ – somewhere between magazines and books - are catching on, regenerating the world of magazines.

The sales of XXI, at 45,000 copies each quarterly issue, make many a publisher green with envy. This publication, which contains long, in-depth articles, was launched in 2008 by Laurent Beccaria, director of the publishing house Les Arènes, and Patrick de Saint-Exupéry, former reporter with the daily Le Figaro. It has created an important precedent in the universe of print journals, which was until then rather elitist. It owes its specific appeal to a clever blend of news - because the articles are all related to recent events and trends - and depth: the articles are very long, and may be purely text, but may also be photos or drawings.

Sold in bookshops like traditional journals, this book-magazine, or ‘mook’ (a portmanteau of the words magazine and book) appeals to a much wider public. In 2011, the two partners gave it a second go with 6 mois, specialised in photojournalism, whose sales now reach 15,000 copies. There are many avatars of these two forerunners coming from other horizons, and the domains they cover are wide-ranging: Charlesis about literature, Usbek & Rica imagines tomorrow’s world, to name but two.

Yetas Laurent Beccaria will tell anyone who cares to listen, ‘The mook is a marketing invention; there’s a much simpler word, which is magazine’. The model for this new type of publication is more likely to be the New Yorker than La Revue des deux Mondes: a prominent placeis reserved for illustration. The mook is more turned towards reportage or graphic creation than literature or the humanities.

The diffusion of traditional literary journals is not at all comparable. The Believer, one such journal initiated in the United States and published in France by Editions Inculte since 2012, sells 3000 copies each semester. But their longevity may inspire envy. The Atelier du Roman - like Décapages, distributed by Flammarion - celebrated 20 years of existence in December.

Longevity is a great concern for magazines. For the founders of Usbek & Rica, the choice of bookshop diffusion did not lastlong. ‘We decided to rethink the journal after 4 issues,’ recalls Blaise Mao, deputy editor-in-chief. ‘We kept on publishing on a quarterly basis, in newspaper kiosks, with 100 pages less and the price adapted. Because we were aware that the bookshop, although it’s a universe we like, is also a place that not everyone frequents, and our vocation is to reach the widest possible public.’Growth prospects are limited for the magazine format. ‘The paradox is that periodicals like XXI require a big industry, with heavy investment and several employees at the service of what is a small product: a magazine,’ remarks Jérôme Schmidt, director of Inculte and dynamic initiator of the eponymous publication.

Consequently, one should be prudent with one’s investments. That was the choice of Armand de Saint-Sauveur, director of Editions Intervalles, who launched Le Chant du Monstre in January 2013. ‘I had been searching for the right idea fora periodical for some time, and this one seemed unique in its conception and practice, with an interactive dimension that went beyond the pages. It’s not a massmarket product; it is defended by independent, literary bookshops. That’s why a circulation of 1500 copies seems reasonable to us.’ Even when it’s been given a new look and updated, a mag often remains… a mag.

 

Fanny Taillandier