If you have ever had a subscription to National Geographic you know how hard it is to throw an issue out after reading it. For us, it was impossbile. We would put every issue and map in order by year, put them in slip sleeves, and neatly arrange them on the shelves. And we were happy.
After many years, though, our shelves ran out of room and we were not able to accommodate any more National Geographics in the library. Instead of letting issues pile up in a corner, we sadly decided to cancel our subscription. We have always wished we had another option. Fifteen years later we still thumb through the issues and refer to the maps.
Another wish, which was a fantasy just a few decade ago, was to own every National Geographic issue ever published. The first issue was published in 1888, so we would have ended up with over 1,400 issues (120 yrs x 12 issues/yr). Not only would that many National Geographics take up a LOT of shelf space, they would have been impossibly heavy. Imagine if we ever had to move them to a new office? Fortunately for us and many like us the technology revolution happened and many things which were once only analog have become digital as well.
In the late 1990’s National Geographic made all of its issues available on a set of 30 CD-ROMs. As with any new medium, the law was unclear as to who owned what rights and a dispute arose. A group of freelance writers and photographers wanted to be paid for this new, not-part-of-the-original-contract, digital version of their work. They sued National Geographic for copyright infringement when the parties could not reach a settlement. National Geographic removed the CD-ROMS from the market and the suit dragged on for almost ten years.
The suit was ultimately dismissed in 2008 in National Geographic’s favor. By then, the technology had evolved from CD-ROMs to DVDs. In July 2009 National Geographic announced a new version of The Complete National Geographic, containing all issues of the magazine from 1888 through December 2008. This issues, which used to take up 15 feet of shelf space/30 CD-ROM discs, is now stored on just 6 DVDs. Even more amazing is the 50GB of data on the 6 DVDs can fit on the spare space available on most home computers. This means that 120 years of articles, photos, and maps are now available at the click of the mouse. Incredibly, all of it (1,400+ issue, 200,000+ photos, 8,000+ articles) can be had for less than $40!
You would think we would be satisfied 🙂 However, we are still wishing for more!!! We wished they were available for reading on the iPad. Yes, recent issues are accessible in the iPad format, but not so with the older ones. We hope the folks at National Geographic are working to remedy the situation. Perhaps some day soon, every issue will be available via iCloud. Until then, we will install the viewer on our laptop and enjoy the DVDs. Can’t wait to read the first issue…and by that, we really mean the FIRST issue!