'The New Yorker' Offers Archives on DVD

Subscribers to The New Yorker often complain they can't get one issue read before the next one comes. That problem's about to get worse: the magazine is putting all of its back issues — dating to the 1920s — on an eight-DVD set. Steve Inskeep talks to Edward Klaris, who directed the project.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Starting today, fans of The New Yorker magazine can find and read every issue of the magazine on their computers. This magazine started publishing in 1925 and now it is publishing "The Complete New Yorker." That's an eight-DVD set that will cost 100 bucks. To learn more, we've contacted Edward Klaris, project director for The New Yorker magazine. He's in our New York bureau.

Good morning.

Mr. EDWARD KLARIS (Project Director, The New Yorker): Good morning.

INSKEEP: Now what happens when I go to an issue from 1927? What do I actually see on the computer screen?

Mr. KLARIS: You'll see exactly as it appeared in 1927. You'll start with the cover, or if you go directly to an article, you might go to an article on page 40, that's where the article will begin and you'll be able to then scroll through it or print it out.

INSKEEP: What if I just want to go through and look at all The New Yorker cartoons?

Mr. KLARIS: You can do that. You can either search by either the cartoonist or you can do a cartoon browse where in each issue you can skip from one cartoon to the next.

INSKEEP: Did you feel like you learned anything about the country or the world that you didn't know from going through this?

Mr. KLARIS: Well, there are some pieces that are just eye-openers, some of the travel pieces, places like Tahiti in the 1930s and a three-part profile of Adolf Hitler from 1936, you know, right before the war, was just fascinating to look at. Sometimes the most interesting thing is looking at the advertisements.

INSKEEP: Oh, yeah, you can go and see the ad for the Studebaker or whatever, right?

Mr. KLARIS: That's exactly right.

INSKEEP: What are some of the ads that you've seen as you've browsed through?

Mr. KLARIS: Well, there are funny ads like `smoking is good for you' type ads where someone's walking up the mountain and she says, `I couldn't have made it up without this cigarette.'

INSKEEP: Now how hard was it to do this?

Mr. KLARIS: It was quite an undertaking. We had to pretty much invent the wheel here. Nobody had done it. National Geographic had about 10 years ago, but since then, the technology has come a long way.

INSKEEP: Do you know if other magazines are doing this?

Mr. KLARIS: I don't. I believe it's going to be an explosion. I mean, the magazine industry's been waiting around for both a technological solution and also some legal issues that had to be resolved in the industry, both of which have now been resolved with our technology and the courts coming down in favor of doing these kinds of archives.

INSKEEP: What was the legal issue?

Mr. KLARIS: Well, the big issue was whether when you separate out a magazine, like, where you have individual articles, the Supreme Court said that you really can't do that without getting the permission of all the contributors. But the court has also said that if you keep the articles exactly in their original context, seeing them next to the cartoons, in our case, or however you do it in any magazine, as long as The New Yorker uses its collective work copyright, it's going to be OK, and not use the individual work separated out, sold separately as, say, a J.D. Salinger or a John Updike article.

INSKEEP: What did you physically have at the beginning, thousands of magazines in the basement?

Mr. KLARIS: Literally thousands of magazines, some difficult to retrieve, some very, very rare, and others where the paper, especially from the 1940s, around World War II, where the paper was coming apart. So we had to find two good quality issues and then ship them down to Kansas City. They were so valuable that we had two of our own staff members drive it down in a U-Haul truck.

INSKEEP: Kansas City--Why?

Mr. KLARIS: There's a great scanning company down there that could manage all of our stuff and take good care of it.

INSKEEP: I understand that there was a plan at one time to also send your paper card catalog along to Kansas City to be copied and scanned.

Mr. KLARIS: We thought about it, but it was actually not feasible. Our card catalog is a unique entity. We only have one copy of every card we've been creating since 1925. With 1.2 million of them, we just didn't want to risk sending them anyplace. So we had to have the scanning company come to us.

INSKEEP: Is your librarian going to use this DVD system or just stick with this card catalog?

Mr. KLARIS: The card catalog is collecting dust, I have to say, in the last couple of months. He can't get away from the screen.

INSKEEP: Edward Klaris is the project director for The New Yorker magazine of putting The New Yorker on eight DVDs. Thanks very much.

Mr. KLARIS: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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