Friday, July 19, 2024

Out of Town News has stocked print publications for Cambridge since 1984. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Out of Town News has provided Cambridge with a diverse selection of stuff to read – in print – since 1984. That hasn’t changed even as the city plans a $4.6 million redesign of the surrounding Harvard Square plaza and contemplates new uses for the kiosk, though it leaves the newsstand within on borrowed time.

The lower-priced, mainstream publications outside the kiosk – The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Atlantic and others – only hint at the variety inside: Vogues from every continent, daily newspapers from Greece, Russia and most other countries in Europe, and magazines spanning subjects far beyond the average (TypeNotes, a British journal of typography, is a doozy to read) are alongside everything from publications for kids (Highlights for Kids, Ranger Rick) and puzzle fans, not to mention more adult magazines that one might expect in 2018.

Still, the variety in the kiosk is less than half of what shoppers would have found there a decade ago, a worker said.

The kiosk’s clientele reflects the variety of its products, says Mohamed, an employee who has worked at the stand for more than 20 years. He’s glad to say the newsstand just began carrying an Arabic-language newspaper; from experience he knows that word will creep out, and eventually a new trickle of customers will make their way to Harvard Square to buy it.

“There’s not one magazine or one person that sells the most. Different people like different magazines. People come from different countries, they speak different languages,” he said.

The Out of Town News habit can be expensive – Solar, the Spain-based magazine of culture and arts for $20, for example, or the special edition of Lapham’s Quarterly given over to “A History of Fake News” for $15, or the Irish magazines – but each have devotees who come on monthly missions to find them. It’s a luxury, though sometimes not theirs: “Sometimes professors or other people come in to buy magazines or journals they use for work. They can buy it online, often, but when it’s for work they usually come here to buy it,” Mohamed says.

Prices for the international fare – these days, trending toward magazines and away from newspapers – range up to $30, such as for the hardbound Purple Fashion (a magazine that is essentially a book).

“There was once a fashion magazine that would cost between $55 and $75 dollars. About one customer per year would buy it,” Mohamed says.