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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The End of Magazines. . .

Following upon my post about the oft-predicted demise of the printed book, and my opinion that it ain't going to happen any time soon, I come across a blog post by Warren Ellis (via SF Signal) about the tumbling circulation figures of the major print SF magazines, a term that seems to be becoming an oxymoron. The figures have inspired reactions from John Scalzi and Cory Doctrow, and has provoked some hand-wringing about how these magazines can save themselves.

Unlike printed books, it seems to me that printed magazines are being displaced by their electronic counterparts in a way that seems unlikely to happen to the book-length form. Why? Several reasons I think. First, unlike e-books, e-mags just require a web browser. No dedicated hardware or software. Second, it is easy to mirror the established economics of print mags (subscriptions and advertisements paying for content) on-line. Third, magazines are, like web-pages, blogs, forums &c., ephemera comprised of relatively small nuggets of information generally between one and ten thousand words. Lastly, on-line mags offer advantages over and above traditional print subscriptions, the major one being that if you subscribe to an on-line mag you get instant access to everything that magazine has ever printed-- not just 12 issues.

My solution to the plight of F&SF, Analog and Asimov's would be simply to adopt an on-line subscription model in parallel with the print one.