By Jim McCloskey
It’s been a long time coming: Just ten days ago, after nearly six months of grinding care and effort, the entirety of the WaterShapes magazine archive is now available online as it originally appeared in print.
All 131 issues are digitized in .pdf format now, every one of them from our premiere in February 1999 to our analog swan song in July 2011. Many of these issues are still available in printed form if you want to complete your collection, but at least three dozen of them have been completely unavailable for sale – in most of those cases for many, many years.
Rolling through each of the back issues to make certain the .pdf compilations were all complete was a wonderful process – one that occasionally tried my patience, yes, but one that also reacquainted me with what a splendid magazine we managed to produced through all those years. In fact, the time I spent with those old issues is responsible for firing me up and keeping me focused on building WaterShapes.com as a platform for ongoing communication and education in an industry the magazine has helped define.
The next big task on our agenda is taking all of the individual columns and articles from the magazine and reformatting them in ways better suited to Internet use. I don’t know why, but where we started converting whole back issues from February 1999 and worked our way forward, in breaking things out individually we started in 2011 and have been steadily working our way back through the years. We’re moving along at a good clip: The 2005 issues have almost all been uploaded to join those from 2006 through 2011, and I’d anticipate having all of this monumental task completed by June 2014.
As we work toward this goal, we’re also starting to gear up our editorial operation to expand the mass of new content we’ve brought to our digital operation through the past two years. Already, we’ve mounted more than 600 articles to our site that were never published in the printed magazine, with a lot of that new material springing from our ambition to make the site friendly to consumers interested in bringing watershapes of all kinds into their lives.
I won’t belabor the point: Keep an eye on WaterShapes.com. It’s growing fast, getting deep and picking up where my all-time-favorite magazine left off – and it may well surpass the original before long!
On related turf, I can’t tell you how many times during the International Pool|Spa|Patio Expo I was asked if WaterShapes would be returning to print someday. My answer invariably ran along these lines: “I don’t see it happening.”
First, as you can tell by looking at most of the trade magazines that cross your desk, things aren’t what they once were in the publishing realm – and getting back into print to resume a struggle against the tide just doesn’t seem like fun or productive to me.
Second, WaterShapes was a labor of love among people who were with the magazine almost from the get-go: Eric Herman, Rick Leddy, Melissa Burress and I were there for all 131 editions, and Robin Wells and Camma Barsily joined us before even a handful of issues were released. It was a family effort, and the team that made it happen is no more.
Third, our all-digital platform is amazing. Among other things, I love the gallery function, where most of the images we insert to our web features can be blown up to large, legible sizes on computer screens. I also love being able to incorporate videos into the mix and plan on doing more along those lines as time passes. Finally, I love not being bound by publishing conventions that once tied me to calendars and seasonal cycles. I never minded deadlines, but I can’t claim any fond memories of editorial calendars or trade show dates.
So no, WaterShapes won’t be back in print, probably not ever. As I noted just above, I’m convinced that the digital product will ultimately be much better than the printed one could ever be. Yes, you might say I’m a Johnny-come-lately digital convert, but I also happen to be one who’s been schooled and likes what he sees coming.