I do not buy or read computer/technology related magazines. At some point I decided that they all suck. It’s usually not their fault though. It is just that since they are usually monthly publications they can’t possibly compete with the Internets. By the time they actually publish an issue, all their newsworthy contents are already stale old news that have been discussed to death multiple times (for example each time it gets re-re-re-duped on slashdot). I don’t even follow the technology news that closely these days. I’m subscribed to so many feeds that things like Digg and Slashdot get neglected on most days. But despite that, your average high-tech magazine offers nothing interesting to me.
Which begs an interesting question: who actually reads these things? Most people who are into technology like me are likely tethered to the internet most of the day so they can’t help but hear the news trickling in from various sources. In that case, they should find printed magazines full of fail just like me. And yet, these things are still in business which means someone out there needs to be reading. It’s a perplexing conundrum that I can’t wrap my head around!
Could it be that their reader base is composed of people who buy these things every once in a while hoping to find something interesting despite knowing better? Or people who buy these publications as light reading material for their plane/train/bus ride where they won’t have internet access. Who knows?
That said, I do sometimes like to read paper based media. Sometimes you don’t have internet access, or using a laptop would be impractical. If you are in a train, on a bus, in the bathroom, at/in the pool, on the beach and etc – it’s nice to have something to read. I usually take a book, but periodicals are nice too especially since they tend to be more disposable and can often be purchased in random places which is not always true for books. Or rather, none of the books that I’d want to read would be sold in a supermarket but an interesting magazine could find it’s way there.
Unfortunately, there are hardly any magazines out there that do not suck. Video game press at some point turned into marketing rags which tend to publish press releases game publishers send them ad verbatim and don’t actually review anything. They pretend they do, but they don’t.
General computer magazines just tend to concentrate on stale industry news and are light on content. Most of their articles are too short, and too general to be considered worth while. As a comparison, most online sources with similar profile supplement their content with links to in-depth materials that you can peruse at your leisure providing infinitely more depth. Not only that, but they often also try to be accessible to general reader, abstain from using industry jargon and dance around more difficult technical issues. So not only are you getting stale news, but also in a proverbial “executive summary” format which means “written so that even an executive could understand it”.
So here is my question to you: do you read any paper based magazines on a regular basis? Do you subscribe to any periodicals? And I don’t mean just technology related stuff. I just mean stuff other than regular pop-culture garbage, sports mags or various “gentleman magazines” and the like. I’m open to recommendations.
Right now, the only paper based magazine I do read is a polish periodical called Nowa Fantastyka and it actually has little to do with technology. It actually specializes in printing short SF and Fantasy stories. Some of the stuff they publish is original, but most are works of more or less known domestic or foreign authors. Each issue usually features 5-6 short stories, some editorials as well as very well written book and movie reviews. It almost never fails to deliver some good quality reading material.
Linux Journal probably deserves a honorable mention here. The quality of the former was actually semi-decent. It did have few good articles every once in a while. But it suffered from another problem – some of it’s articles were actually difficult to read away from the computer as they liked to print pages upon pages of code or step-by-step howto’s that you sort-of have to follow, and not just read through. Both of these things are better done online, since you can copy-and-paste rather than type everything in from scratch. Average issue or two interesting articles, few articles directed at complete n00bs, few stale news articles and the rest was occupied with needlessly detailed howtos or code samples written as dryly as man pages. After a while I let my subscription lapse.
I also know someone will bring up the venerable 2600. But that periodical is more -zine than maga- if you know what I mean. A quite successful and a very long lived zine one, but a zine nevertheless. Not really a professional grade publication. Besides, it suffered from similar problems as Linux Journal. Half the articles were 80% code or shell script, and the ones that were not tended to be light on content. Not to mention that that magazine had a great tendency to wax poetic about “hacker culture”, hacking the planet, sticking it to the man and etc.. You probably know my opinion about the proper usage of the word hacker and the detrimental nature of the pop-culture hacker stereotype.
So how about you?