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March 8, 2007

The future is electronic print?

Paul has a great post at Velcro City Tourist Board, entitled Science fiction Magazines Dont Have To Die.

I agree with pretty much all of it, electronic media has to be the way forward, and embedded adverts does seem a "better" method than micro-payments.

This reminds me of the initial discussion at the BSFA AGM last year, where the discussion was along the lines of "if we give away our magazine content why would people join the BSFA?". It was, however, lead from a Science Fiction Foundation angle, which is somewhat academic, and therefore, in my opinion, somewhat removed from the real world. I sat there shaking my head, thinking "you have your heads in the sand!". Behind me Bruce Sterling sat scribbling in his notebook, then at the end of the day he exploded everything I was thinking into an hour long tour-de-force of why you can't run from how things are now. Not the future, now. We use Google, Wikipedia, You Tube, Technorati and so on...you can't run from it.

(Yes, Bruce Sterling agreed with my thoughts, but history will probably say that I agreed with him.)

All of this seems so obvious, and so talked about, why are we still talking about it? Why isn't something happening? (Or why is it happening so slowly?)

The one downside to electronic print, for me personally, is that I prefer reading from paper. Everything electronic gets filed on my harddisk or in delicious and my "to read" queue gets bigger and bigger. For some reason I just never print things out to read (paper costs!). So maybe that's the technical hurdle we have to overcome, the true paper electronic screen? (Get your act together Sony et al.) As stated many times, the killer app for electronic print is a book version of an iPod (done well). After that would everything be different?

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Jason Stoddard reckons that I'm wasting my time wishing for the Killer App Ebook reader. "No corporation in its right mind would put the R&D money into developing such a product. Producing a specific-use device for a tiny niche market... Read More


The weird part is that I'm STILL sitting behind you scribbling in my notebook even though I'm currently sitting in Austin, Texas.

LOL. I shall remember to keep glancing over my shoulder then.

Damn, you've reminded me I've got to get some stuff from V250 up on the website.

In the longer term, I do want to get more content online -- pdfs of entire issues, potentially, once we run out of copies, not to mention (more) content from older back issues (although the problem there is getting permission from the contributors). But I can't see us moving to simultaneous print and online editions just yet.

I'm actually very happy with print editions of Vector and Matrix. It was more the attitude of the panel that irritated me, the doom and gloom, must protect our content, train of thought. As though the BSFA would cease to exist if the magazines were free, which I just don't agree with.

I think putting up some content, like you do now, is a good middle ground. (It's also nice to be able to link to features from here).

Historical correction: As initially pitched to participants, it was the SF Foundation that's worried about what happens if the journal goes online, not the BSFA. And I think that's a more valid concern - the BSFA might not disappear if they gave out the magazines for free, but the SFF would have a lot harder a time if there were no subscription revenues from Foundation.

And I take issue with the reading of the panel as being 'doom and gloom'. My own view was that print media is not going to be destroyed by electronic media any time soon, at least not in the humanities, and that there's no immediate need to panic.

Okay, point taken about the difference between the SF Foundation and the BSFA.

However, it felt to me like an exercise in trying to run from the inevitable, hence Bruce's suggestions on other models of funding.