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Today's lesson is about getting just what you need, not just what you want. Another January column about resolutions? Naw, dog: This is a story about magazine subscriptions.

What local magazine has nearly 10 times as many California subscribers as it does from the home state? (Hint: In 1974, $6.50 got you a full year's worth of Sy Safransky's sunny wisdom.)

This month we celebrate, with 60,000 subscribers and 337 issues, The Sun's 30th birthday. The anniversary issue is full of warm memories; the Brief History of the Sun timeline details the fiscal life of the Chapel Hill magazine, through it's circulation growth and broad funding (from yard sales to the NEA) and subscription support.

The Sun is a neighborhood success story and an always welcoming and familiar touchstone on the newsstand. We've read writers before they've become bestsellers, or made their Oprah debuts.

One of the publication's most popular columns is "Reader's Write"--Sy anticipated the memoir boom decades ahead of the curve. Sun readers are encouraged to write short essays on a different topic each month, part diary, part "missed connection," part confession. The topic is--what else--"Turning Thirty." Want to be part of the fun? Your deadline is March. 1 to come up with a submission about "Hard Work."

You don't feed the media beast for 30 years without getting national notice. Utne Reader has given The Sun an Alternative Press Award four times and last year Entertainment Weekly placed it on their "Must List."

Journal subscriptions made headlines last week when Duke, NCCU, UNC, and N.C. State decided to end their joint agreement with the world's largest publisher of scholarly research journals. The issue was choice. Distributor Reed Elsevier offered the schools a bundle of 1,300 subscriptions, all together, for one price. In the past, the schools had to take the whole package from the single distributor, spending significant cash on unwanted product.

"What we're fighting here is the business model that the company is forcing us to follow," Duke's vice provost for library affairs David Ferriero told The Duke Dialogue. Hey, now that's the kind of in-your-face librarian power I could use a little of myself for those dinner-time phone subscription solicitations from Time magazine!

Check the periodical stacks at your local library. The Sun at $24 a year sure looks better than Brain Research at $20G's for the same 12 months! Plus you get a page of Sunbeam quotations to guide you through your month. www.thesunmagazine.org

Contributing Writer John Valentine can be reached at ajcg@acpub.duke.edu

More by John Valentine


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