Where did all the catalogs go?
This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on July 7, 2006
Clearing out my magazine rack the other day, I came across some old specialty catalogs I'd hung onto because they had such cool stuff in them.
The Mo Hotta - Mo Betta was a particular fave. Hot sauces from around the world, plus all kinds of chili-pepper items: t-shirts, hats, aprons, books, calendars.
The Vermont Country Store was another keeper. And the U.S. Cavalry store. Hickory Farms. Omaha Steaks. Harry & David's fruit of the month. Edmund Scientifics.
Growing up, getting the catalogs was always a late-summer treat as they began arriving an anticipation of the Christmas shopping season. My brothers and sisters and I could sit for hours looking at things we didn't need and couldn't afford.
And I still look forward to getting some of these catalogs but if you don't buy from them, you soon get dropped and don't get a catalog the next year.
Besides, these specialty catalogs really are useful at finding unique gifts for birthdays and other occasions throughout the year.
But as mentioned, I don't always shop from them, and so I don't have current copies of a lot of them anymore.
Fortunately, the companies that publish the catalogs all have Web sites now with online shopping.
And the Web servers don't care if you've shopped there before or not.
A quick rundown
Mo Hotta Mo Betta
Vermont Country Store
Harry & David
Sort of a catalog
For most of the 1980s and '90s, there was this great publication called Factsheet 5 that was the place for following the underground and alternative press. It was the same size as ComputorEdge's print edition 8.5 x 11, printed on the same newsprint, and about 80-100 pages per issue. It was jam-packed with reviews and contact info for every small literary, political, philosophical and other kind of non-mainstream publication you could think of.
If you started your own alt 'zine, you immediately sent a copy to Factsheet 5 to get included in the next issue it was how you marked the fact that you had arrived on the alt scene. Conservative, liberal, anarchist it didn't matter. Factsheet 5 was the Bible.
The magazine has been defunct for awhile, and of course a fair guess would be that the advent of the World Wide Web and the absolute explosion of online 'zines made Factsheet 5 obsolete.
And yet the Factsheet 5 Web site indicates the publishers will resume the print version later this year. You'd think an online version would be more serviceable (not to mention cheaper, as printing up all those copies must cost a fortune), but in the meantime, there is a weekly Factsheet 5 zine e-mail newsletter you can subscribe to for free.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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