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The Media

Linux Journal Goes — Surprise! — Digital 184

Posted by timothy
from the you-can-print-it-out-like-my-dad-would dept.
Mr_Perl writes "Linux Journal sent out an email to subscribers today announcing that they are going 100% digital. Subscribers signed on for a paper version of the journal, and now have been switched to an electronic version, apparently at the exact same subscription rate. No news yet on why they did it, and no sign of any offers to reimburse unused subscriptions for subscribers who are disappointed."
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Linux Journal Goes — Surprise! — Digital

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  • No thanks. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 19, 2011 @08:00PM (#37149484)

    I like having hard copies of journals, books, and magazines. I don't want to read stuff on a fucking tablet of some sort.

    People go on and on about how paper is fragile, but it's a lot more durable than the shitty Chinese-made devices that you have to use to read this "e-content". It gets worse when the publishers and vendors can arbitrarily delete material from your device, even after you've paid for it. Fuck that.

    Why the fuck would I pay the same amount of money and not get something physical in return? No thanks.

    • Re:No thanks.: Ditto (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 19, 2011 @08:15PM (#37149610)

      When I sit down with a dead tree version of anything, I read it with as much full attention as I can muster. I don't know why, but I really have to make a conscious effort not to get distracted when reading online and I want to skim. And then there's the read an article, see what's on /., read part of an article, go to Fark, read some more ....etc ....

      It's annoying but I find that my bad habits from online reading are moving over to the "real" world - I'm skimming more. I'm getting lazy with my reading habits. If the point isn't made in the first paragraph, I loose interest.

      The whole World is becoming tl;dr

    • Re:No thanks. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wisnoskij (1206448) on Friday August 19, 2011 @08:48PM (#37149818) Homepage

      And just on principal. The same price?
      It is free to make and distribute, how can the digital version be the same price?

      • They spend hours compiling the thing every month, and now their server's going to have a higher load (presuming people stay on). I'm not sure what they're using for desktop publishing, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were occasional costs involved (stock images, etc.). How do you figure it's free to make and distribute?

        I'm not saying charging the EXACT same price is reasonable, but asking for 0.49 or 0.99 per issue for digital might not be a reasonable thing for consumers to ask, either.

        What would be

        • There are also shipping costs to take into account. I'd have simply prolonged the subscription period of the customers who received the physical magazine, even at a small loss, because losing a customer is worse in the long run.

        • How do you figure it's free to make and distribute?

          By make I think he means manufacture the physical copy - not produce the issue which has to be done for both digital and hard copy editions - but the digital edition is free to manufacture because there is in fact no manufacture. The only way it wouldn't be free is if the layout etc. was different for the digital edition otherwise the digital can use the same publishing files as the physical. However also eliminating the physical edition does put the whol

      • by ScentCone (795499)

        It is free to make and distribute, how can the digital version be the same price?

        You must be one of those people who doesn't value the time they spend making something. That's fine for you, give your own work away.

        Regardless, this sounds more like a step taken to avoid raising the price.

      • Sorry, I'm tired of this. Marginal cost of production, that is, the cost incurred to make one copy of the magazine is NOT equivalent to the actual cost of creating that copy. There is a fixed cost involved with making the master copy. Granted, that cost is fixed, and because it is fixed, as the number of issues produced increases, the contribution of the fixed cost goes to zero.

        But asymptotic to zero isn't the same thing as zero. There are costs to be recouped, ROI to be realized, and salaries to be pai

        • when I said free to make and distribute I meant a single copy is free to make and distribute (basically free, as a few cpu cycles and a few megs of bandwidth is under a cent).

          Now of course there are fixed costs, but I would not be surprised if nice glossy paper + tons of ink + storage and handling + shipping = a huge percentage of the previously printed mags cost.

      • Sorry, I'm tired of this. Marginal cost of production, that is, the cost incurred to make one copy of the magazine is NOT equivalent to the actual cost of creating that copy. There is a fixed cost involved with making the master copy. Granted, that cost is fixed, and because it is fixed, as the number of issues produced increases, the contribution of the fixed cost goes to zero.

        But asymptotic to zero isn't the same thing as zero. There are costs to be recouped, ROI to be realized, and salaries to be paid. I

      • Inflation? My local daily newspaper used be a quarter, now it's one dollar. And don't get me started on postage rates, postage-dependent subscriptions keep on getting squeezed every single time there is an unplanned US Postage hike.

      • Cost and price aren't the same thing. Price should exceed cost, otherwise, they wouldn't make any money,

        Apparently, their cost has gone down, but the savings aren't being used to lower the price. That's greedy. If they want to sell a less useful product, they should lower the price. The content may be the same, but the higher cost format has a higher value.

        Ideally, Cost of production = price = value to user.

        Otherwise, someone is getting a raw deal and will probably go away.

    • by drobety (2429764)

      I like having hard copies of journals, books, and magazines

      Me too. It makes me feel good about myself when I throw them in the recyclable bin.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        >Me too. It makes me feel good about myself when I throw them in the recyclable bin.

        Read it online and then recycle your computer. Then go buy a new PC and stimulate the economy. It's your patriotic duty.

    • I'm very disappointed because it was my bathtub reading material. The bottom corners can sometimes get soggy, but it's still good. Can't say the same about a digital device. I'm not into the iPad hype anyways.

      I have a couple of other small devices able to read pdfs, but frankly my day consists of get ready for work, rush to work, work, gym, drive home, collapse on couch for an hour, make something to eat, catch up on life (bills, personal email - maybe, quality time with spouse), maybe have a bath for "m

      • Re:No thanks. (Score:4, Informative)

        by hawguy (1600213) on Friday August 19, 2011 @09:58PM (#37150178)

        I'm very disappointed because it was my bathtub reading material. The bottom corners can sometimes get soggy, but it's still good. Can't say the same about a digital device. I'm not into the iPad hype anyways.

        Get a Kindle(*), put it in a 1 Quart ziplock baggy. Problem solved.

        I've done this in the bathtub, hot tub, and pool with no ill effects to my kindle. Which is more than I can say about some books and magazines I've accidentally dropped in the tub.

        * I'm sure other e-book readers would also work, but my Kindle fits perfectly in a cheap baggy, and the next-page prev-page buttons are easy to press while in the baggy -- probably not the case if it were a touchscreen device (like the Nook Color)

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        Only a true nerd has LJ near the toilet with the pages stuck together.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ditto...totally agree with you. LJ will be yet another "print magazine gone digital" that will loose me as a subscriber.

    • From the LJ's letter:

      (...) We realize that you may have paid more than our new subscription rate ($29.50 USD), so your current subscription term will be extended based on the remaining value of your subscription. For example, if your current remaining subscription value is $20.00 USD, the term will be extended by 8 issues based on the issue value of $2.56.

      • by kenh (9056)

        $2.56/copy? LJ can layoff/fire anyone involved with either new subscriptions and/or renewal order processing.

        As readership drops (this makes it harder to read the magazine and eliminates newstand purchases entirely) advertising rates will drop, as ad revenue drops, content will suffer. As content suffers, readership drops further, forcing ad rates even lower, and so on...

        Pity this is happening now, just as Linux is ready to breakout and become the dominant desktop OS - it's got about 1/6th the marketshare o

  • big mistake (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 19, 2011 @08:07PM (#37149542)

    I just started buying this magazine at the news stand to take with me places I can't bring electronics. Now I guess I'll stop reading it.

    • by xtracto (837672)

      You touch a very good point. For all the magazines I have bought and the ones I have subscribed to, I first saw them in a random news stand that I passed by and then, after briefly skimming through the magazine I decided to buy it.

      I did it about 20 years ago with PC Format. I did it later with Game Dev magazine (that shit was expensive to buy in Mexico), I did it with some *very* low print quality (black text on grey newspaper quality) magazine which had excellent content, also Linux Mag (for which I subscr

  • by mysidia (191772) * on Friday August 19, 2011 @08:08PM (#37149546)

    If you let a paper subscription lapse, you don't have to return the books that you paid for under the subscription. It might be hard to find articles or search them, but you can keep a copy for as long as your copy survives! With reasonable treatment and storage conditions, that's upwards of 50 years.

    If you have a digital version... they have the ability to pull the old issues at any time; e.g. 10 years from now they might decide to "archive old articles", so you can no longer find them. Also if you let your subscription lapse, when your web account is disabled, you lose access to ALL issues, even ones put out last month when you had a subscription to the periodical.

    Also, if they go out of business and their website goes away, you lose access to all the articles you got under the subscription, and will have to pay more if you ever want to see them again, probably exorbitant fees to a database service or other archival service.

    Loss of articles may hurt you if you remember/kept a tab of it, and want to use the info. either to help you, to show someone else, or for research/paper writing purposes

    • by MacTO (1161105) on Friday August 19, 2011 @08:17PM (#37149622)

      TFA notes that you can download a PDF version of the periodical, which means that you can keep the issues indefinitely.

      So what it really comes down to is a business decision, and they think that they'd be better off in an all digital format. And I think that the only people who have the right to complain about that are the ones who are going to end up with their remaining print subscriptions transitioned to digital (because that sure ain't what they asked for).

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The August 2011 issue marks our last print run for Linux Journal, but it is not our last edition. We will continue publishing our monthly magazine in digital form, in fact greatly building upon it, while continuing to present fresh material every day on the Web.

        Many of you have been with us since Linux Journal began, in 1994. Ever since our first issue, Linux Journal has been the premier Linux monthly, showing up on newsstands all over the world, as well as in your mailboxes. But, we now consume information

      • by uniquegeek (981813) on Friday August 19, 2011 @09:59PM (#37150186)

        Keep them indefinitely? You mean continually backing them up to different mediums and hoping the medium doesn't die, converting the pdf to something else if pdf comes to a point of dying, hoping for backwards compatibility of readers (and ideally testing many of the pdfs each time the version or software package changes)...

        The effort involved with keeping magazines, in most instances, is carting the box around if you move. That, and keeping a pet bird away from it, if you happen to have one.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Get yourself some archival optical media and you're done. Verbatim has some very nice stuff. It's stable at a broader range of temperatures besides the other benefits (in that it's actually designed to have longevity, unlike any normal media.)

          PDF is here to stay because ghostscript can handle it. Provided they're spitting out PDFs that you can render with gs, that is.

          The benefit, of course, is making a lossless copy and putting it in your safety deposit box or equivalent... that and not having to carry it a

        • by faedle (114018) on Saturday August 20, 2011 @12:49AM (#37150872) Homepage Journal

          Point by point, you realize, every argument you bring up is a red herring.

          Backing them up to different medium? A lot easier than making a photocopy of a magazine. I have EVERY DAMN TEXT FILE I'VE EVER WRITTEN dating back to the Commodore 64 days. Why? Because "backing up" is a simple process that's highly automate-able.

          Converting from PDF? See above: I have every damn text file I've ever written dating back to the Commodore 64 days. And I can read them all, too. Because (surprise!) there are emulators for running C-64 software, so I can fire up my old C-64 BBS any time I want. PDF compatibility is likely to be a non-issue, especially given that there are open-source PDF viewers even today, and given the quantity of stuff in that format it isn't going anywhere. I have early PDFs I created going back at least 10 years, all load up fine in modern PDF viewers, both open-source and Adobe's plugins and Apple's Preview.

          Digital copies are more survivable precisely because the ease and cost of copying is near zero. Copying and storing paper copies doesn't scale, and is costly.

        • by MacTO (1161105)

          To add what others have said: people will lose PDFs for the exact same reason that they lose print magazines. They are too lazy to maintain them. In the case of PDFs, it will be backing them up. In the case of physical magazines, it will be moving them or storing them.

          That isn't to say that I would buy a PDF magazine. Even though I love reading novels on an ereader, the heavy formatting and different flow of reading a magazine means that I love print versions. Then again, I never read this rag so my op

      • by sconeu (64226)

        I'm a print subscriber. I'll probably not renew my subscription.

        I *LIKE* dead trees. You don't need an internet connection, and you don't need power.

  • with Borders closing.
    • by bmo (77928)

      While that sounds like a coincidence, it's probably the truth.

      Borders carried all of the computer rags that mattered. Now it's just down to Waldenbooks and Barnes&Noble and the odd "super-mega-newsstand" (that is getting rarer than hen's teeth) for retail dead tree geek mags.

      --
      BMO

      • by Desler (1608317)

        Now it's just down to Waldenbooks

        No, Waldenbooks was owned by Borders and Borders shut down all those stores.

  • Of any periodicals, I think Linux-oriented rags are excellent candidates to go all digital. I think I'm pretty safe in assuming that the readership is on-line enough that getting their subscription material on-line is a natural step. They are probably more likely to have a tablet of some sort, even the rumored (gasp) non-Apple tablets.

    On the flip side: even if they increase their subscriber base, advertisers may lose eyeballs that would have flipped through an issue on the newsstand, or on a friend's coffee table/desk. Advertisers LOVE newsstand sales because the readers typically consume more of the content. Finally, I'm not surprised, but not pleased, that the subscription rate doesn't reflect the fact that major expenses will be eliminated: the post-layout printing and distribution costs.

    • Agree - this makes me think maybe the reason the price isn't changing is because they know ad sales are going to plummet.

      The email I received started me thinking - they are implementing an additional system to one pdf. I hope it's more user-friendly than a magazine being available through EBSCO at your library, where you have to click on 70 links to get the whole magazine.

      Part of the problem I have with the one-pdf is some of the ads have a crapload of image and text boxes - unvectorized, unrasterized. Th

    • by mysidia (191772) *

      Of any periodicals, I think Linux-oriented rags are excellent candidates to go all digital. I think I'm pretty safe in assuming that the readership is on-line enough that getting their subscription material on-line is a natural step.

      Maybe... but the next natural step when they're on-line enough, is to get their 'article fix' from free sources such as blogs, and skip on the pay subscriptions.

      • by kenh (9056)

        They've decided to devolve to a premium website, just as accessible as a free website, but will their content support $2.56/month?

        And their content will update monthly?

    • by dltaylor (7510)

      I have been using Linux since 1996, and a Linux Journal subscriber for a very long time.

      While I do have a Nook Color, I have no desire to read a magazine on it, nor on my desktop.

      If I have to go to the Web for something, it it will be a specific article or googled link, not to download a magazine as pdf.

      I want a refund.

    • by kenh (9056)

      Newsstand purchases are verifiable and serve as an indication of reader interest in the magazine. A magazine with strong newsstand sales has high reader interest.

  • A license printed in the book that allows if your the owner to have a copy printed. If most magazines did this it would be wonderful. A cottage industry would then appear for local printers for print copies. More expensive for those that want all printed copies but I think great in the long run for those that want to archive. Print and keep around six months of copies and recycle after that. Have another copy printed if you really want/need a printed copy later. Also have your copies made in the best

    • by kenh (9056)

      I can get a 100 page magazine delivered to my door for $1/issue (or less), how will a local vendor compete?

      First, they'll charge sales tax
      Second, Postage will not be bulk mail rates
      Third, the paper costs alone will exceed the target ($1/issue)

      Smaller printers are more expensive per page, paper is cheaper by the ton, and bulk rate postage is a huge discount.

  • Doc Searls writes: "Ever since I discovered HTML, it’s been my preferred format for writing. Every word of mine that’s gone into Linux Journal, since I started in 1996, has been written and delivered in HTML. That’s because my writing has been normalized to hypertext, and to pixels rather than print. What’s different for me this time is that I’m not paying attention to my monthly 900-word limit (or less if images are involved). While a word limit does impose the discipline of b
    • Re:From the Editor (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PCM2 (4486) on Friday August 19, 2011 @09:12PM (#37149930) Homepage

      Ever since I discovered HTML, it’s been my preferred format for writing. Every word of mine that’s gone into Linux Journal, since I started in 1996, has been written and delivered in HTML.

      Hahaha, totally typical. When I edited Randall Schwartz's column for Web Techniques magazine, he delivered his manuscripts in Perldoc format. (Note: This was neither cute nor geeky, it was just a pain in the ass.)

      What’s different for me this time is that I’m not paying attention to my monthly 900-word limit (or less if images are involved). While a word limit does impose the discipline of brevity, the fact remains that brevity is not the only virtue of good writing. Yes, it’s a good one to have when your column appears on the last page of a print magazine. But when that magazine is no longer confined by the dimensions of printed pages, you’re free to go longer—or shorter, as the case may be.

      It's my belief that this is precisely what is wrong with a lot of online-only writing. Nobody is bothering to edit it anymore. Writers are free to ramble on for as long as they choose, and most readers end up tuning out after the first page (or not reading TFA at all). When an editor pretends that an online brain-dump is actually better than a well-edited article, watch out: the publication is about to take a nosedive.

      Linux Journal always has been a publi- cation for the Linux Community. Linux Journal will now be a publication by the Linux Community as well.

      Oh, so no editing, and no actual writing either? Where's my checkbook?

      • Oh, wow, I enjoyed Web Techniques back in the day. Thanks for that.

        • by PCM2 (4486)

          Oh, wow, I enjoyed Web Techniques back in the day. Thanks for that.

          You're welcome, though I can't take a lot of credit.

          I was hired at Web Techniques as Senior Technology Editor. It was the first full-time editorial position I'd ever held. After they hired me I asked them why me out of all the other candidates. The editor-in-chief told me that out of all of the candidates he interviewed, I was the only one who gave an acceptable answer to the question "what is the relationship between Java and JavaScript?" He said every other candidate gave an entirely different answer, and

    • by afabbro (33948)

      "Ever since I discovered HTML, it’s been my preferred format for writing. Every word of mine that’s gone into Linux Journal, since I started in 1996, has been written and delivered in HTML

      Um, Doc, the Linux Journal Author's Guide [linuxjournal.com] says "Articles must be sent as plain ASCII text".

  • ...that whole "digital magazine" thing has been done already.

    It's called the Linux Gazette.

    While it's been nice to have PDFs of the LJ, I am not happy to see the hard copy go away.

    • by tomhudson (43916) <`moc.nosduh-arab ... `nosduh.arabrab'> on Friday August 19, 2011 @09:07PM (#37149908) Journal

      ...that whole "digital magazine" thing has been done already.

      It's called the Linux Gazette.

      linuxjournal is squatting linuxgazette.com. You may want to try the net [linuxgazette.net] domain for the real thing.

      I stopped buying linux journal when the articles became too predictable - rehashes of the same articles from the same month the previous year. Boring!

      • by mysidia (191772) *

        linuxjournal is squatting linuxgazette.com

        Sounds like a trademark lawsuit or UDRP dispute waiting to happen....

        Come to think of it... didn't Linus own the trademark to Linux and assign it to the Linux Trademark Institute with a mind towards prohibiting chicanery like that?

  • I guess need to find something else to read when in the "library" at work..
  • by blendergasket (806364) on Friday August 19, 2011 @08:48PM (#37149816)
    That really sucks for the subscribers who either don't have access to or don't know how to use a computer.
  • It's all command-line anyway; how much resolution do you really need?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    One of the nice things about printed magazines, is they add literal visibility of Linux being popular. One of the reasons I subscribed.

  • Won't be renewing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) on Friday August 19, 2011 @09:27PM (#37150032)
    I subscribed to Linux Journal because I wanted to support a Linux publication. I can get everything I cared about from Linux Journal from a variety of blogs that I already subscribe to, for free, via RSS.
  • How am i supposed to read the journal, when I can't take it with me?
  • How many people actually read it since Doc Searls decided to make the magazine articles more shallow and "approachable" ?

    Like Dr. Dobbs Journal, it was really already gone when it went "100% Digital". Same as BYTE Magazine, by the time it was "100% Digital" all that was left was single mildly entertaining column.

    • by wdef (1050680)
      Yes I miss the more techy articles. If it's not in your field you occasionally pick up something or are encouraged to find out more.
  • and, as I live in Brazil, paid extra for international shipping.
    I wouldn't mind (much) the change if they honor my current subscription and send me the magazines I already paid for! I just sent an email demanding a refund and cancelation.

  • the rate everything is going digital, pretty soon I won't have anything to read when on the porcelain throne.

  • PC Mag went digital, subscription is up, I didn't renew. That's the way I intend to treat each magazine every time that happens. I pay money for a magazine, not a download. Do not enjoy reading on a monitor.

  • Luddites: PFO (Score:1, Flamebait)

    As a member of an organization that also has a publishing arm that includes a periodical (I'm on the Publishing Committee), I can tell you that the costs of publishing and distributing dead-tree copies is astronomical (pun intended), and unless your subscription fees are stupid-high or you have enough advertisers to off-set most of the costs, you will be drowning in a sea of red ink. We had to make the tough decisions to 1.) allow limited advertising, and 2.) go to all digital, with printed copies provided
  • This is like the only magazine I would find interesting when browsing for something to read on a train trip.
    I used to be a subscriber, but it got a bit expensive with shipping to Finland. I will dearly miss this magazine and will now go and encase my hard copies in lucite.

  • ...are gross.

    Do your business then get out.

    Why you want to catch up on the latest build of OpenSSL while sitting in a cloud of feces stench is beyond me.

  • I just don't know how that's going to work out. For example I am getting a lot of free subscriptions to industry-specific magazines that used to be print, now digital-only. While I occasionally read an issue here and there, it certainly is far less than it used to be with the dead-tree edition.

    While I understand that they have to go with the times, it seems to me that going digital-only has its own set of challenges, and that very few publishers have really bridged the gap that will make their digital publ
  • I cancelled my subscription because of this. The irony is that I had just signed up - subscription to start Oct 01 :-)

    Personally I _want_ a magazine that can sit on the table in my lounge, *cough* or on top of the toilet cistern. I do wonder how many subscribers they're going to lose because of this. Im sure they did a survey and decided the benefit was worth it.

    Heh, LinuxJournal deathclock anyone?
    Medraut

       

  • by vinn (4370)

    I stopped subscribing to Linux Journal about ten years ago.. then last year I resubscribed because I'm starting to get interested in Linux again.

    It's sad the publishing industry is jumping so hard and fast on the digital bandwagon. I suspect in the future we're going to see a reverse digital movement - companies who set up shop solely to take online content and put it print form. It'll be a novelty and a niche industry, similar to vinyl records. The headlines in 2030 could very well read something like "

  • An electronic subscription is essentially worthless to me. This means I paid for something I'm not going to get, and I'm not real pleased about the thieves.

    I'll admit that I already didn't read all of it, but this way I'm not going to read any. Reading on a monitor is much more stressful than reading a book or a magazine, and not even worth it for fiction.

    Article reading is a quite different activity from "looking something up", which is something I do on a monitor. I don't, however, follow ANY on-line m

  • But I'll never read it again. Seriously. I like hardcopy.

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