I used to read a lot of magazines, about 5 or 6 a month. One side affect was that I had a mountain of magazines around the house (I didn’t throw any away). With the rise of the internet I decided I really didn’t need to keep them for reference, so I binned them. Shortly before I stopped reading so many, one of the magazines started offering an electronic version, emailed to you. You still had to pay, but as someone who was disappearing in a sea of paper, I thought it was a good idea. I never signed up because I like reading hard copy (it’s faster for a start).

I was thinking about it recently, for no real reason, and it occurred to me that more magazines should offer this. I believe PDF is becoming the publishing industries format of choice, and those that don’t use it can easily convert to it, so producing an electronic copy costs practically nothing. You could make it available to subscribers using a login area on your website (possibly a month in arrears to avoid problems with illegal distribution) based on a subscription ID, or even email it to them, as well as sending out hard copies. Where’s the benefit? Well, for readers it would allow much easier archiving, not to mention adding the ability to search issues. It would certainly be useful to anyone who keeps their copies, but possibly not in the same way that the guy who got $10,000 from Intel for an original issue. On the other hand, it would mean that publishers have an archive of every issue and as one-off printing prices drop, issues would never need to go out of print and would always be available for back order. Another example of the long tail of economics perhaps?