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By a newspaper stand set into the linoleum floors of Eason on O’Connell Street, an elderly man dressed in black rifles through BUSES at the Aviation/Transport section of magazines.

It’s Monday morning at 9:20am.

Three more men and three women flip through their chosen publications, and leave when satisfied – all bit players in something of a ritual here most mornings in the magazine section of the store.

Latest editions – magazines on sport, entertainment, music, weddings, parenting, crafts, home, gardening, cooking, gossip, gadgets – wait for daily browsers.

As the morning rolls on, they arrive and split off into their chosen sections.

“There’s another one I like over here,” says Paul Bolger, pointing to the August issue of Foreign Affairs. “It’s still early so I’d say next week’ll be the new issue. I just came in here on the off-chance it was in.”

Bolger has popped in to Eason for years. Sometime to buy, sometimes to browse.

He picks up the latest edition of Space Flight. “NASA AT 60 – WHERE NEXT?” a headline reads.

He glances around the vast specialist magazine section. “Going back to my childhood, I loved the Moon landing. So I just flick through,” he says.

393 Publications

It’s easy to see why Eason on O’Connell Street attracts magazine browsers.

It has the national papers. It has a large spread of regional newspapers – the Gorey Guardian, Derry Journal, Laois Nationalist – stacked across from niche titles including Irish Runner, Sailing Today, Diabetes Ireland. 

In the sports section, The Racing Pigeon crisply waits for perusal. Its rival Racing Pigeon Pictorial International is nearby.

“Why would they stock these if nobody bought them?” says Bolger, moving through this section to the right, containing 393 publications. “We’re all becoming specialised.”

Behind the Current Affairs section of magazines, Pat Byrne flicks through The Economist. “Other than online there’s nowhere else to get these publications,” he says, pointing to the Transport section, which holds titles such as Bus & Coach Preservation.

“I’d buy a magazine like The Economist, not so much for the news value, but for the analysis,” he says. “I don’t always agree with it but it gives you good background.”

As the morning rolls on, more people filter in from O’Connell Street.

A young man wearing a green jumper, yellow cap and black Converse picks up Bazaar, flips through it for five minutes and wanders off.

With cropped grey hair, wearing spectacles and a paisley-patterned shirt, an elderly woman takes her time reading today’s Irish Independent, eventually leaving 20 minutes later, empty-handed.

Every so often a staff member does the rounds, placing the magazines back in their places.

Browsing or Reading

Overstaying your welcome in bookstores and newsagents is a problem, says John Gannon, manager of Chapters Bookstore on Parnell Street.

“We encourage people to browse,” he says. “But there is a fine line between browsing and actually reading on the shop floor.”

Some bookshops seem to attract it more than others. When Borders in Blanchardstown was still open, it was known for its magazine browsers, says Bob Johnston, of the Gutter Bookshop on Cow’s Lane.

They stocked piles of specialist magazines, says Johnston. “Staff used to spend their lives just returning these magazines that nobody ever actually bought but everybody had a good flick through.”

In Eason on O’Connell Street, the shelves hold Kiteworld, All About History, Guns & Ammo and Fitbit: The Complete Manual. There are copies of PCPilotFeel Great Naked, Doctor Who and Gibbons Stamp Monthly.

Titans like The New Yorker, National Geographic and Time take pride of place. But there’s also Airgun Accuracy, Dollhouse World, Toy Soldier & Model Figure – this month featuring Napoleon’s Army of Italy – and Foulsham’s Original Old Moore’s Almanack 2019. 

Bolger, stood next to Small Holdings – the sheep edition – says that the physical feel of print keeps him coming back time and again. “You can crumple a newspaper and it’s comforting. People want to put away their iPhones.”

Cónal Thomas

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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