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A love letter to print

A love letter to print
Annabelle Hickson
Annabelle Hickson Tenterfield, NSW
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Is print dead? Galah's editor Annabelle Hickson makes a case for print in this increasingly digital world.

I love print because I like who I am when I’m reading more than who I am when I’m watching Killing Eve on my laptop while checking Instagram on my phone while refreshing the news on my iPad.

If I could just stuff in another medium, I think, I might be able to escape feeling so skittish and unsatisfied. But it never works. My Screen Time stats tell me my daily average is 5 hours and 41 minutes, so you can’t say I haven’t tried.

When I’m reading a book, I am only reading a book. I need both my hands to hold the book and turn the pages, which means I can’t hold my phone. I can’t read the words and make any sense of them while listening to something or someone else, which means I can’t watch Villanelle in a Loewe coat murdering someone at the same time. The book doesn’t ping with news alerts, so I’m not compelled to refresh the site on my laptop next to me. It has a clear and physical beginning and end. There’s no infinite scrolling. It doesn’t need charging. It doesn’t pulse blue light into my skull. It doesn’t pump up my ego with love hearts or sing a promise of followers, like sirens calling out from the rocks.

Reading a book gives me a physical and mental structure in which I am able to focus. And focusing makes me feel steady and satisfied. The medium—the package that it’s in—matters. It’s an old-fashioned framework that temporarily saves me from myself in this modern world.

‘We have a choice now between two profound forces—fragmentation or flow,’ writes Johann Hari in his brilliant book Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention. ‘Fragmentation makes you smaller, shallower, angrier. Flow makes you bigger, deeper, calmer. Fragmentation shrinks us. Flow expands us.’

Fundamentally, I want GALAH to be a place for people who are interested in regional Australia to gather. It’s a flag in the sand that says ‘here we are’ and, thanks to the digital age of podcasts, emails, websites and social media, there are different ways I can wave that flag. 

But I am glad that the main incarnation of this flag is a print magazine. Even though it’s not particularly convenient or instantaneously scalable, I want to contribute something to the non-digital world. That’s where I want to hang out for at least part of every day. I suspect you do too. 

I love it that when we have a copy of Galah in our hands, we're part of a communal experience of sorts—a mix of stories that doesn’t change depending on what the algorithm thinks we want to see, but something shared that we can experience privately: in bed, in the bath, at the kitchen table. The message implied in the medium of print is that reading is a pleasure to be enjoyed at a time that suits us. That we can be interested in the same things without having to worry about love hearts and followers and notifications and keeping up. 

The ‘what’ is important to me—making something that shows regional Australia as a dynamic, diverse place—but how that message is delivered matters to me too. 

Print is a medium that brings out the best in me. It helps me feel just a little less smaller, angrier and shallower and a little bigger, deeper and calmer. I hope it does the same for you too.

This Letter from the Editor was originally published in Galah Issue 05