Saturday, August 06, 2011

Zoo Knew?

I was recently sorting through the perpetual flow of Groupon and Living Social promotional deal emails that had accumulated in my inbox over the previous weeks (you buy one pair of discounted movie tickets once and you're marked for life) and amid the 75% off tango lessons, $15 for $30 random restaurant credit offers, and free first months of yoga classes, I was completely shocked to find a discounted offer for a one-year subscription to Zoobooks Magazine.

I had to briefly check my calendar just to make sure that some unseen cosmic force hadn't randomly transported me back to 1993. Sure enough, as it had been for the past eight months, it was still 2011. It was still 2011 where printed media was being assailed on all fronts with the newspaper and magazine industry engaged in a particularly conspicuous slow death spiral. It was still 2011 where every Borders bookstore had just gone completely out of business, while Kindles and other eReaders were entering the mainstream. It was still 2011 where even a young adolescent could have easy access to all the accumulated information of the internet over their smartphone. It was still 2011 and I was staring at an offer for Zoobooks magazine; the educational monthly animal magazine for kids whose commercials looked outdated and lame even to my 9 year old self in 1993.

How could any kid over the age of 5 have any possible interest in a magazine subscription to Zoobooks? Forgetting the fact that it is competing against Xboxes, digital cable TV, Angry Birds, and the internet for their actual attention; even if a kid was way into animals, what could Zoobooks possibly provide, with its thin collection of frozen nature photographs and drawings with captions delivered at the relatively glacial pace of one animal a month, that an interactive website or a DVRed Discovery channel documentary watched on an iPad couldn't? Even back in the 90s when they were more relevant I never knew any kid who actually had a superscription beyond that ubiquitous first free Elephants issue (which I assume is the most printed single magazine issue in the history of publishing). I always figured Zoobooks were almost exclusively subscribed to by pediatricians for their waiting rooms, alongside Highlights (which is also amazingly still in print).

Although writing this little cranky observation about the differences between my adolescent years and how outdated and incongruous an item from that period, like Zoobooks, now appears in the present has made me feel older than I've ever felt, it's still sort of nice to see this ancient creature of the 90s still somehow managing to thrive in this harsh environment of the present. To think that perhaps I may actually be able to give my child the free elephants issue of Zoobooks is a mind blowing but not unagreeable notion. Now if they could only bring back Disney Adventures.

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