Sunday, 21 August 2011

No more paper for Linux Journal

I am a subscriber to Linux Journal in digital format, although to be honest, sometimes it happens that I let a number pass without consulting its PDF, or just rapidly browsing it. The point is, a printed magazine can be carried around much better (to the bathroom, the balcony, in the bag, resting on the sofa ...) where a computer, even if it is a laptop - is much more awkward (and more fragile).

Not to deny that digital has its good benefits. I can subscribe to a magazine whose editor lives at the opposite side of the world, without running the risk of paying more for shipping than for the contents themselves. I can read a magazine the next moment it was published. I can also store all my numbers on a disk drive, bringing in a USB stick. I can also annotate, highlight phrases, searching for words, and so on.

Like it or not, however, times are changing, and digital advances seems unstoppable. Yesterday I received a mail from Linux Journal that informs me that the print magazine will be abolished, and LJ will goes therefore to be 100% digital.

In a post on the LJ site there is a brief but careful analysis of the latest market trends in publishing (along with a parallel path of the magazine with the very progress of linux). As a matter of fact, the digital switchover is affecting several newspapers, becoming a phenomenon by no means haphazard, but hardly avoidable. Cutting costs is one of the fundamental reasons, but it is not the only one: the greater flexibility of digital versions also plays an important role, for example.

We can easily predict that in a relatively short time, the magazines that actually will be printed will be the exception, not the rule. Before this can happen really, though, we should wait  for a number of things. These include:

  • mass dissemination of tablet devices for convenient fruition of magazines and digital content in general. As we said at the beginning, it is not confortable to read your favorite magazine at the computer, not even a laptop. These devices - iPad, Android, or other -  will need to demonstrate easy to use, cheap enough, and really reliable.
  • prices of digital magazine should be noticeably lower in respect to the printed version(if any), so that cost considerations will push the migration towards the new format
  • any "vexatious" system content protection should be avioded, so that people will maintain the freedom to move a magazine from one device to another without being forced to abstruse procedures to convince the system that is not "spreading improperly" the magazine itself
  • digital magazines should prove to be easy to read and attractive; you should have the possibility to isolate an article, see the pictures, enlarge it or shrink it, make printed copies, annotate it, share it, etc. ... (PDF does not seem the ideal solution, for example)
Meanwhile, we will soon do without Linux Journal paper. Well, admittedly, I've never kept in hand a printed copy of Linux Journal. Maybe I was already in the future ....?