Another Transition: Linux Journal Goes All-Digital

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The word went out Friday: the 208th monthly edition of Linux Journal would be the last of its kind in print. Starting immediately, the magazine would no longer be printed and delivered to newsstands and subscribers. Instead, a plain PDF or enhanced PDF from a company called Texterity will be delivered to subscribers.

Doc Searls described the reasons for the switch thusly in the article linked above:

Just this month, ABC reported that newsstand magazine sales fell 9% in the first six months of this year. The Wall Street Journal reported a drop of 9.2% for consumer magazines, with double-digit drops for celebrity weeklies like People andStar. Women’s Wear Daily reported similar drops for all but one fashion magazine: Vogue, thanks to one Lady Gaga cover.

The big computer-industry trade magazines from the ’90s have either disappeared or gone digital. Of the big three publishers, only IDG is still intact, but relatively few of its old magazines are still in print.

We survived while others failed by getting lean and staying focused. But the costs of printing and distributing continue to go up. We could keep publishing in print if we could raise the number of advertiser pages, but we don’t see that happening.

So, after a fashion, you can see the writing on the wall. The backlash against the decision can be seen in the comment stream. These ranged from the likes of (not actual quotes) “Well, duh, this was inevitable. You gotta get used to it” to pleas for the ability to read the magazine while camping.

One of the more thoughtful critics wondered whether historians and archaeologists of the future might believe humans of our age lost the ability to write, given the lack of tangible artifacts. I suspect there’s a good sci-fi story in that idea; wish I had the imagination to write it.

Now I’ll admit that I lean more toward the side that says “isn’t a printed computer magazine something of an anachronism these days?” But I’ll also admit that I don’t really make time to read all the electronic publications I subscribe to. I find it a little hard to make time for the print publications I subscribe to as well.

I do think that we will eventually everyone will be going all-digital, and probably sooner rather than later. As some folks in the LJ comment thread noted, it’s important to do it right, though. I hope that as this transition proceeds, we can all find the right form(s) for our information.

As a writer, I also hope that LJ remains a paying market for the people who provide the content we all read. To that end, I intend to keep my subscription for as long as possible, and recommend you do that too. I’d give ‘em a raise too, but that’s just me. Disclaimer: I sold a story to the website (not the print version) a few years ago, and hope to do so again one day.

Do you read Linux Journal? Other Linux-oriented print publications? Do you read electronic magazines of any kind? Are print magazines on the way out, and is that a good thing? Just a few of the many questions raised by this decision; feel free to comment here on any or all of them.