My Life

Online magazines, I'd love to read, but cannot

There are a number of fine online magazines containing high quality stories from both established pros and writers who will be pros in the future. Beneath Ceaseless Skies*, Fantasy, and Strange Horizons are just a few of the titles I’d like to read.

But I don’t.**

Okay, Brent must be one of those old fashioned tree-hugging, dead tree book-loving, technology haters, right?

Well, no. I have a huge collection of eBooks and I love reading them on my iPod Touch (though I do have some complaints about the current state of things in regards to eBooks, DRM and available hardware). While there are many other improvements that need to happen to both the reading software and hardware (see Robert J. Sawyer’s blog for some great discussion on eBook readers) I feel reading eBooks is superior to dead tree books in many aspects but I really don’t enjoy reading online magazines.

The Issue With Online Magazines (for me)

Mostly I find reading online uncomfortable, as I’ve discussed in the past — I even went to the length of writing a flash based storyreader, but that only solved part of the problem.

The thing is that the actual physicality of books and magazines do offer several advantages. Their placement on a bookshelf, bathroom ledge, or drawer all offer inherent organizational advantages. I can bring the object with me, wherever I want to read it. The placement of objects inside of them (i.e., bookmarks) indicate place of reading, et cetera.

Online magazines I have to read on a webbrowser or a cramped, mobile browser. When I am at my computer, I’m working… it is very unlikely that I’m going to interrupt my work day to spend thirty minutes to read a short story, unless it is over lunch. And I’m not going to sit at my computer reading when I could be somewhere more comfortable, like in front of my fireplace. I’ll read short blogs online, check out social networking sites, but if it takes more than five minutes away from my work, I won’t be doing it.

What works for me

eBook publishing goes far in solving these issues by allowing portability (if reading on a handheld device) and the software readers have built in organizational abilities. Luckily several magazines have started to release eBook versions of their contents.

I have a digital subscription to Analog Science Fiction and Fact. I get an e-mail notification when a new issue is available and I open up eReader on the iPod Touch and download the next issue. Simple, works, and I get to use all the features of the eReader application.

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine does something similar, sending me a pdf every month. I love it.

I’d be willing to spend money if it meant being able to read these other magazines on my terms.


What about you? There must be a large number of people who *do* read these magazines online. What do you like about them? What would you like to see improved?

* It should be noted that Beneath Ceaseless Skies does allow for a download that can be read (but I have to go download it myself and haven’t figured out a clean way to get it onto the iPod)
** I do read them to research the markets as I submit stories to them

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.

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