Magazine subscription service Stack laughs at the reaper.

Illustration by Tom Bingham

Illustration by Tom Bingham


It really isn’t. I mean, if print is dead how come you still only know one person with an iPad? And they’re still embarrassed to get the thing out on public transport, I bet. And it’s not so much that you know them, you just know of them, like you know a friend’s dad. The relatively slow burn of Apple’s latest heap of wires is hardly smoking gun evidence though, but indie print’s Santa Clause, Stack, is.

It lives on the Internet at, but works with paper and ink rather than screens and pixels. The idea – like all the good ones – is extremely simple. Instead of subscribing to any one physical publication, only to realise that you don’t actually want to read Carp Monthly every month, you subscribe to a pool of some of the world’s best independent titles. Every thirty days or so you’ll then receive one of the nineteen magazines that Stack have found operating around the globe right now. You won’t know which one is coming; it’ll just arrive, unannounced.

“I started Stack because I’d realised that there were loads of magazines out there that I loved but that other people had never heard of,” says Stack founder Steve Watson. “The idea crystallised when I was talking to a friend about his t-shirts. His wife had bought him a subscription to a service that sent him a different limited edition t-shirt every month. They were all brilliant and he’d never have found them otherwise.”

The key is in the titles that Steve has chosen to work with – what they cover and how they present themselves. “They need to be innovative but accessible,” he says. “I really like to give people something that surprises them, but I don’t want people to feel alienated by the magazines that they receive.”

US avant-garde noise bible The Wire perhaps flouts this rule from time to time, but you’d certainly welcome its arrival. It’s the most known of the publications involved, followed by Little White Lies – a film magazine with themed issues, snazzy illustrated covers, stringently honest reviews and a clear love for sophisticated design, which is what connects all of the art, music and fashion-heavy titles available.

“The design of independent magazines is in part a function of their format,” reasons Steve. “It’s expensive to print magazines, especially when you’re printing in relatively small numbers, so the people who make magazines tend to do so because they have a real love for the physical product.”

The Ride Journal is a cycling magazine for people who don’t cycle (in that it features stories over the best new pair of aerodynamic, fingerless gloves), Fire & Knives is a food magazine for people who don’t like Jamie Oliver (okay, or any celebrity chef), Zoetrope is published by Francis Ford Coppola, with the help of big name guest Art Editors like recent collaborator Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Stack has found these magazines so you don’t have to. It’s like a wine-tasting course for subversive-thirsty eyes, even if your next sample is delivered blindly, like would be if you told them to put anything and everything on your list and ordered them to stop emailing you.

“I can imagine a future in which we don’t print newspapers any more,” says Steve, “because a newspaper is primarily about transmitting information and you can do that much cheaper and quicker electronically. But a magazine is about creating a relationship with the reader, and when magazines are done well they can be about the pleasure of feeling the paper between your fingers and seeing the texture of the ink on the pages.”

Visit the STACK website.

By Stuart Stubbs

The mags that make up Stack

Originally published in issue 25 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. February 2011

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