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Magazine subscriptions - John C. Kirk — LiveJournal

Oct. 16th, 2010

01:29 am - Magazine subscriptions

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Back in 1995, I subscribed to 2 computer magazines: Computer Shopper and PC Pro. These magazines have cover disks: originally floppies, later replaced by CDs, then DVDs. In my case, I had the CD version of both magazines for a while, then I paid a bit extra to go for the DVD version of PC Pro. More recently, Computer Shopper stopped including CDs; they replaced this with a "virtual disc" option, where you can download the contents of the CD from their website.

It's been a while since I even looked at any of these disks; I have a huge pile of the things, but I never install any of the software. However, I'm still paying extra to get them: since April 2007, I've been paying £9.99 every 3 months for PC Pro (£39.96/year) vs £15.99 every 6 months for Computer Shopper (£31.98/year). So, I decided to change my PC Pro subscription, and go for the cheaper option (CD/virtual).

I phoned the subscriptions department, and apparently there are 3 versions of the magazine:

Price (£)
Version3 months6 months12 months
PC Pro17.9535.90
PC Pro digital edition19.9739.94
PC Pro DVD edition9.9919.9839.96

Just to clarify, it doesn't make any difference how often you pay for a particular version, e.g. the annual cost is exactly double the 6-monthly cost. I've just put them in this format so that it's easier to compare them.

The lady I spoke to didn't have any details about the versions, so I assume that the first one is just the paper magazine (no cover disk). There's a Custom PC digital edition, so presumably the PC Pro digital edition is similar to that, i.e. an electronic copy of the magazine that you can read on a computer or an iPad (via Zinio software). This could be useful, since it would save clutter in my flat. However, if the digital version is more expensive than the paper version then there's something wrong!

I recently enthused about digital comics, but there are a few differences here.

  1. I have to pay for comics in some form (unless I go for illicit torrents), whereas PC Pro offer it all free of charge on their official website. This may make it more like the webcomic business model, since the contributors still deserve to be paid, but the current price seems excessive. (In fairness, the online version is cheaper than buying issues at cover price in a newsagent.)

  2. I want to go back and re-read old comics (or at least to have the option), whereas it's unlikely that I'll want to randomly re-read the April 2005 issue of Computer Shopper or PC Pro. If there's a particularly interesting article, I can just rip that page out of the magazine. Alternately, if I'm looking for a new printer, and I want to access their old reviews, doing it by category on their website is easier than doing it by issue.

  3. Comics fit neatly onto my screen, but computer magazines are bigger. I think that even a single page is bigger than an iPad screen (based on diagonal size), and some articles are split across a double page (for no apparent reason).

  4. Online comics don't include adverts, but I think that the digital magazines do. One of the comments on the bit-tech site (24-Sep-2010 17:27) says that removing the adverts would mess up the double page spreads; Marvel get round this by putting in blank pages where necessary, but they mostly avoid the problem anyway, because they anticipate reprinting the issues in a paperback/hardback collection. If you look at how much space the adverts take up in each issue, I suspect that it's proportionally a lot more than banner ads on a website.

  5. I can't "try before I buy". The Marvel website has a limited selection of free comics available; even if you aren't interested in those issues, you can at least open them to make sure that your OS/browser is compatible, and see whether you're comfortable with the user interface. By contrast, the digital magazine is a complete shot in the dark. I found a Wired iPAD magazine review, which mentions that a single issue involves a 527MB download. I don't know whether that's the same for PC Pro, but I would like to know before I part with any cash.

All things considered, I opted for the cheapest version. So, that saves me a few quid, and more importantly it will stop my mountain of cover disks from growing. Speaking of which, if anyone would like any of these disks, help yourself. However, I can't be bothered to list all their contents (I'd be here all week!), so it's a bit of a pig in a poke.



[User Picture]
Date:October 16th, 2010 11:08 pm (UTC)
What do you actually get out of these magazines that you can't get out of any online tech site? I'm not criticising, I'm just making the suggestion that you maybe reconsider whether you even need a subscription to this content at all - maybe you can find the same or better elsewhere, possibly in RSS form for no cost.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
Date:October 17th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
Fair question - I have a bit of a backlog of these magazines at the moment (i.e. lots of unread issues), and I may cancel my subscription altogether in due course. I do follow various tech blogs, but there may be extra info in these magazines; it's hard to say until I've looked through them. In the short term, I'm just eliminating the bit that I definitely don't need (cover disks).
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[User Picture]
Date:October 18th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
Is it worth identifying the effective shelflife of the cover disks you already have and culling them after that period?

In my experience old disks with free stuff on are generally unusable after a while due to operating system incompatibility that built up. Eg anything that references win2k can probably be safely ditched.

However this is a wishy washy justification for not throwing all the damn things away in one go and freeing up more space ;-]

Have you actually used any program off the cover disks at all recently? If not i would say bin the lot and comfort yourself keeping an eye out for interesting new things to install in the NEW issues of the magazines.

After all Magazines arn't really designed to be hoarded, there is probably some bugger paid to do that in the publishing house. They are there as a temporary and disposable way of imparting recent information in a pleasant and entertaining way. Forget the old issues and preferably bin them things have probably move on anyway and most of it will be repeated in the later issues/online because journalists are lazy.

I really like magazines as objects but old ones become terrible clutter very quickly and i heartily recommend binning old ones when the glossy fresh new issues arrives :]. (mmmmm smells of new)

I gave up on loads of subscriptions a while back absolutely because of this problem, I hate throwing stuff away especially if i haven't gotten round to consuming it yet, but after a while its just not worth trying to catch up, life is just too short and frankly to full of paper anyway. Now all i have is a sub to private eye (cos i'm in france and i cant pick it up at the station any more and anyway it was a Xmas prezzie) and even though its a biweekly comic i still find new ones arriving before i have finished the old ones... I tried leaving old ones round the office for other UKrs to have but they were all too polite so now i just bin them if they are not the latest issue and sod it, i'm sure there wont be that much new in rotten boroughs that i wont be scandalized about next week as well.

Sorry this post rather got away from me.

In summary - bin the lot if you can bear it and enjoy the new ones when they arrive. As they arrive ditch their predecessor and dont get bogged down trying to read and store everyhting if you dont have the time.
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[User Picture]
Date:October 24th, 2010 12:57 pm (UTC)
I'm planning to get rid of all the disks, either via Freecycle or just to the bin. The only reason I haven't done it already is that I have some other old software to sort out, and it's easier to set one day aside for Freecycle collections.

As for the magazines, this is a problem I've been struggling with for a while, but everyone else unanimously agrees with your advice :)
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