Linux Journal: It Bytes To Go To Bits

Today, Linux Journal announced something that I’ve known was coming for a while now. We will no longer get that wonderful excitement of finding a good old fashioned paper magazine in our mailbox every month. The good news is that Linux Journal won’t be going away. We’re just switching medium. It’s no longer possible for the company to sustain the cost of printing and shipping a physical magazine every month.

This shouldn’t really come as a shock to anyone, as magazines right and left are either switching to digital, or closing shop altogether. As a tech magazine, I’m quite pleased to see us go for the former instead of slowly and painfully succumbing to the latter. The truth is, I can tell you first hand that Linux Journal is about 2 things: Content and people. And not in that order. With this change, those 2 things will remain at the top of our priority list.

It’s funny, because based on some of the negative feedback we’ve gotten, I suspect people think Linux Journal is a big conglomerate somewhere, and a fat guy smoking a cigar decided to cancel traditional publishing. As if he were sitting on a pile of money, and didn’t want to pay the small increase in price to keep printing. The truth is we’re a handful of regular old people scattered around the country. We have mortgages and drive crappy cars. Most of us have “day jobs” that not only supplement, but bring in the lion’s share of our income. We do Linux Journal because we love it. We love the people. We love the freedom. We love the penguin. If it were a matter of increasing prices a buck or two, we’d have done so. As the entire industry is showing, it’s a much, much bigger problem than that.

I kinda thought of all readers, ours would be the most understanding. And for the most part, they are. Linux people are smart people. The print magazine industry is dying, and either we adapt, or we just become a nostalgic part of history. We don’t want to move to a digital only platform, we must do so, or just pack up our toys and go home.

Thankfully, the majority of our subscribers are positive, if not bummed, about the change. Heck, we are too. We’re terrified that this “thing” we’ve come to love might not make it. We’re worried that people will just get angry and not buy the magazine anymore. We’re sad because we have no magic wand to make things all better. So, we will do all we know how to do: Create content. It’s what we’ve always done, and as long as we can find a place to write our stuff, it’s what we’ll continue to do. Hopefully we’ll thrive in this new digital age. It seems we are the right demographic to do so.

Hopefully, you’ll join us. :)

7 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    May linux journal have many more years of publishing the best linux magazine in the world. It’s the best because it’s run by a group of people who not only love what they do but also love linux. I hope this switch provides linux journal the opportunity to grow in ways that print would never have. Keep up the good work.

  2. Arturo says:

    Hi Shawn,
    as a subscriber I can say that I disagree especially with the modus operandi and the timing of the transaction, poor organization and communication of the switch-off, sorry, no justification or understanding! Maybe you could handle differently, is not a question of small or large company! However, I imagine that you put into account some loss of subscribers …

    What can I say (as a person): good luck, we hope that we can go on!

    For the chronicle, I wrote a private message to some of you but maybe inundated with messages or other I had no answer. I also launched an online survey on LinkedIN http://t.co/ZUv5PRe few votes, maybe someone who thinks positively from here and vote!

    73,
    Arturo.

  3. Brian Hill says:

    Shawn,

    I’ve been a Linux Journal reader for many years, it’s the only magazine I’ve subscribed to for years and I read it cover-to-cover every month. I took it to LUG meetings and convinced others it was a worthwhile investment of their time and money. I got in the habit of folding down the corners of pages that mentioned interesting software or other references so that the next time I was at my computer I could look up those references.

    You seem surprised by the amount of negative feedback or perhaps by the vehemence of that negative feedback. Though I can only speak for myself I feel fairly confident the reason for my strong negative reaction is shared by many, many other readers: we too love Linux Journal – we’re angry that we’re losing something we enjoy and looked forward to every month.

    I think the way this switch to a digital only format was handled is also a significant cause of anger among subscribers. We had no inkling that something like this was about to happen. It was as if we went to a nice restaurant, ordered sirloin steaks and baked potatoes and then the waiter brought us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead with the explanation that the restaurant made the decision to only serve PB&J’s shortly after we placed our order for steaks.

    For many of us an electronic version is simply not a viable option. Like the majority of tech folks I spend entirely too much time behind a monitor. I have a wife, two daughters and an infant son whom I prefer to spend time with. Having a physical magazine allowed me to leave this computer to spend time with my family and also enjoy the fruits of your (and everyone else at LJ) labor. I don’t have any kind of portable reader and based on my research the digital publishing world still hasn’t figured out a viable business model (some publishers simply don’t offer their wares in digital format while others price e-books at the same or even higher price than their hardback versions – and don’t get me started on all that DRM stuff…).

    I appreciate the time and effort everyone at Linux Journal has put into the magazine, there are only a handful of magazines I’ve ever considered to have consistently high quality to be worthy of subscribing. I hope that LJ survives this transition. Perhaps some day in the future when I feel like e-readers and the digital publishing industry have matured I’ll subscribe to Linux Journal once again, until then though – here is where we part ways.

  4. NixSince85 says:

    Shawn, I understand that LJ faced certain challenges in terms of continuing its print edition, but the way LJ handled this situation is really inexcusable. We (paying customers) know that LJ knew for a long time they were going to make the switch to all digital, yet we were left entirely out of the loop until AFTER the change had already happened. Why?

    I’ve subscribed to LJ since the last millennium and I simply do not appreciate being left in the dark until the switch had already occurred. I, just like many others, LIKE having a hardcopy of the magazine and feel robbed by the demise of the print edition. I’m not saying that I’d be happy with the switch if I had been given some advance notice, but at least I wouldn’t be angry about the way it was handled on top of being disappointed at the demise of the print edition. You’re talking about the negative feedback as if you’re surprised…but why would you be? Don’t you see that LJ has let down its loyal customer base by springing the news on us after the fact? For me it’s not just about being unhappy that I’ll no longer have the “oh good! Linux Journal arrived today!” feeling each month, but being disillusioned by the way LJ handled the whole situation. I expected better from such a fine company.

  5. Lew says:

    Hi, Shawn

    Having lived (and lost) through the sudden closings of several subscription-based services, I have come to view the sudden reduction in a pre-paid service as a bad sign. Especially, when employees of the service say things like “I’ve known was coming for a while now”.

    In the LJ forums, the webmistress has had to engage in some damage control over that last remark, saying that you didn’t mean that you *knew* about the changes for a long time, but only that you had a feeling that the “industry” was moving in this direction.

    It is, in part, this “clarity” of information that has left me with a bad feeling about this move to 100% digital. Never mind that I don’t like reading magazines on my digital devices. Never mind that I purposely paid for a hardcopy subscription when I had the option of choosing digital. Never mind that Linux Journal entered into an (at least implicit) contract to provide hardcopies as part of that subscription. Let’s concentrate on the fact that several writers for LJ have publicly stated that they knew that this change was coming for a long time. That alone doesn’t give me a good feeling, no matter what spin your webmistress puts on it.

    As I said, I’ve lived (and lost) through the demise of several subscription-based services. In each case, the companies (some large, some small) “saw it coming”. In each case, they drastically reduced their delivery of the prepaid service, usually only weeks before terminating their business in insolvency.

    So, if the LJ situation goes like I expect, I too will have the opportunity to say that I knew “was coming for a while”, with the demise of the Linux Journal. I’d like to *not* have that opportunity, but I see it coming.

    And rather than again lose my investment in a pre-paid service that goes belly-up, this time I’m taking no chances. LJ hasn’t given me a reason to stay, and plenty of reasons to go, so I’m going.

    To you and the rest of the LJ staff and contributors, I say “Thank you for all the hard work, interesting and educational information, and over a decade of solid print.” I will miss all of you.

  6. brandon says:

    Shawn,
    I would love to see how many of these so-called “hard-core” LJ readers that have left, come back to a digital subscription, and be happy with it. i seem to have no problem downloading a .pdf and printing it, while still having that digital copy on my server for later reference. Also, being able to read LJ on my rooted android phone (which is always with me) is amazingly awesome. (you never know when your gonna be stuck in traffic for 2 hrs cause the local traffic control lights are operated by a *cough* windows *cough* machine.) happy days to follow. i LOVE my digital subscription!!

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