The New Communities

Posted on February 26, 2015 by


Welcome to the new Communities!

Readers of our print edition will notice instantly a number of important changes in the format of this issue. We on staff have been talking about potential changes for several years, and with the expiration of our latest contract with Allen Press (Communities’ printer for the past decade and a half), the time was ripe to assess whether we could now implement them. After extensive research by Christopher Kindig, our intrepid Business Manager, we were thrilled to find that we could make some changes that, we hope, will not only better convey the richness of life in cooperative culture, but also better align with our values, especially our ecological ones.

Those changes include:

A new printer: Out of the many available options, we chose Ovid Bell Press in Fulton, Missouri to be our new printer. Their level of responsiveness to our inquiries, and the values alignment we immediately felt with them, helped them stand out from the rest of the printers we surveyed. It would take an exceptional business to attract our patronage away from Allen Press, with whom we’ve had very positive experiences—and it became obvious that Ovid Bell Press was that kind of business.

New paper: Ovid Bell Press was the only printer on our list to offer paper with recycled content higher than 10 percent. Our new paper’s recycled content is not just a little above 10 percent; it is 100 percent post-consumer recycled. This means that not a single tree fell to produce this new issue of Communities. The 54.1# Recycled Silk paper we chose also has a beautiful matte finish that stood out to us as much more attractive and earthy than the glossier alternatives. We are thrilled to be using this new paper and to be helping support a regenerative economy in doing so.

All-color: Many of us have felt it a shame that some of the beautiful color photos that we use in the magazine have appeared only as black-and-white to readers. Life in community (whatever form it takes) is colorful, and the purely black-and-white insides of our magazine up until this point didn’t convey that as graphically as we hope this new format will.

We also discussed the potential pitfalls of going all-color. Many of us love the black-and-white-only format of The Sun (the monthly “magazine of ideas” from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, not the sensationalist British tabloid), which explores the many dimensions of what it’s like to be a human being, in words and graphics that seem to gain power from being in black and white. We agreed that a color format in The Sun would simply be a distraction, and would compromise the contents. But Communities is a different animal, despite the alignment we feel with The Sun’s personal angle and the importance it places on what goes on below the surface of our lives. We wanted to become all-color not in a “glossy, glitzy” kind of way, but instead in a way that would enhance our contents rather than shove them aside for appearances.

We talked as well about the environmental impact of colored inks as opposed to black ink. In the end, we were convinced that any additional impacts from the pigments in soy-based colored inks were orders of magnitude smaller than the dramatic reductions in impact we achieved by switching to 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper. The new paper also helps us avoid the “glossy color” trap, by not being glossy.

New binding method: One way we made the switch to all-color more affordable was by eliminating the book-like perfect binding on our magazine, replacing it with saddle-stitched (stapled) binding. Some of us were initially loathe to abandon perfect binding, until we held the saddle-stitched samples from Ovid Bell Press in our hands. We discovered that saddle-stitching was not only plenty strong to keep our magazine together, but actually made it easier to read: it sits wide open on a table or lap much more effortlessly than our perfect-bound issues did, leaving the hands free and the spine-edge of pages more readable. On the downside, we know it won’t be as easy to identify each issue by looking at the spine on the reader’s home bookshelf, but the very great cost savings we achieved by switching binding methods have allowed the other changes we are making. In the end, we all agreed on the tradeoff.

New covering method: We also reduced costs significantly by shifting to a “self-covering” format: the same paper stock used on the inside of the magazine functions as the cover. We had the most questions and reservations about this particular change, but multiple sources have assured us that this kind of cover usually survives mailing just as well as a heavier cover made of separate stock. Please let us know if your copy endures any damage in mailing; if yours is torn in transit, we will mail you a replacement copy in an envelope. If enough copies get damaged, we will reassess this choice of covering method.

We consider this new format a work-in-progress. This first issue in the new format is almost bound (stapled, to be precise) to have some glitches; we’re curious to see what they may be, so that we can iron them out in future issues. We are eager to hear your feedback, whether specific or general—praise, complaints, reflections, or anything else. Please email them to editor [at], or send them via snail mail to our editorial office in Oregon.

We are excited to share this evolution with you. Baby boomers (featured in this issue) have come a long way, as you’ll read about in the many articles that follow—and Communities (born of baby boomers more than four decades ago, and now carried forward by multiple generations, including boomers, their offspring, and even their offspring’s offspring) has come a long way too.

Thank you for joining us!

Chris Roth edits Communities.

Leave a Reply