Taking books from podcast to print

Why would anyone launch a magazine in the year 2015?

It’s a question we at Little Atoms asked ourselves more than once over the past few months as we put together our first print edition.

Little Atoms has existed as a podcast for just over 10 years. We are, at heart, a books show. When people ask what the show’s about, I normally say “we find books I actually want to read, I read them, and then I get to talk with the author about them”.

Essentially, that’s it: the podcast doesn’t have a theme or trick or a gimmick apart from we like meeting interesting writers with interesting ideas: in the past few weeks alone, that has included Hanya Yanagihara, Timothy Snyder, Max Porter and Emma Jane Unsworth.

The real theme of Little Atoms is reading: we like to read books, we like to talk to authors about their books, and authors like to talk to us.

Our listeners, too, are readers. Since relaunching our website in January with written features, we’ve seen a steady increase in traffic, encouragingly so for longer, thoughtful pieces.

So the next logical step is to bring out a print edition.

This of course, presents its own difficulties: transferring a one-hour author interview into a magazine article is a craft in itself: how to keep the flow of a conversation, the nuance, down to the very inflection in voices of author and interviewer?

We think we’ve managed it: the magazine contains edited interviews with Professor Sarah Churchwell, war photographer Lynsey Addario, Eric Schlosser and Suzanne Moore among others.

Apart from interviews, the magazine has tried to continue the podcast’s curiosity about the world with a wonderful travelogue by Australian writer Elle Hardy, Nick Cohen on the allure of “airport fiction”, and Fergal Keane reporting from Lesbos, the epicentre of the refugee crisis.

There’s no point point in making a magazine in the digital age without ensuring that as well as a good read it is a beautiful object. This is where print can still set itself apart. Giles Arbery of design agency Wild Billy and Crazy Dave has produced an extraordinary beautiful book, with a focus on text and readability that is rare in modern magazines. Distinctive artwork has been provided by illustrator Jean Jullien.

It’s been a joy to be involved with Little Atoms over the past decade, because it is an endeavour (a “great project” as Ian McEwan has said of it) that reminds of us of why we love books and why we read. The worlds we have been introduced to, the breadth of ideas we’ve taken on, the fascinating people we’ve met... we hope that Little Atoms magazine will help bring more people on that journey with us. And that is why we chose to publish a magazine in the year 2015.

Padraig Reidy is editor of Little Atoms. For stockist details for Little Atoms email editorial@89up.org.