Announcement from the Autumn 2012 issue news
You may have noticed that we have floated ideas for over a year on the Journal website about moving towards a digital version of the journal that could be distributed electronically.
Recently several things have changed to make it seem like the time to make a choice is approaching, and it seems good to let readers know ‘where we are’ with the Journal at the moment.
Financial situation:We have been making a loss of $1000 or more a year in the US or more over the last five years. (This is not counting donations from ‘Sustaining donors’).
In the UK we used to make some ‘profit’ that we could use to invest in equipment etc . But more recently, increases in mailing and printing prices meant we just broke even for the last financial year. This year the Royal Mail put up its prices by 20% and made European delivery more expensive for the weight of our Journal, so the bill for stamps jumped from just over £300 a quarter to about £450 a quarter. The paper version of the Journal would not be sustainable unless we kept putting up subscriptions rates to match the increased costs of mailing, or unless there were substantial donations to underwrite Journal mailing and printing costs.
Improvements in technology: The various options for publishing online and to e-book readers have improved. E-book readers have become more popular and affordable, and software is now available to produce various e-book formats quite easily.
We have also upgraded the www.obcon.org website. It has more content, is easier to navigate and is based on a platform (WordPress) that is powerful and flexible enough to help deliver the Journal through several means. There are various options available to us that we will be researching carefully over the next few months. It is possible to deliver the Journal in various formats to subscribers through some kind of email newsletter tied into the website. These formats can be used so that readers could print their own Journal if they wish or use various online print on demand services. Eventually the website could effectively become the Journal, with the latest edition available in various formats and previous editions available in a way that can be searched by subject and author.
The costs of maintaining a website and email newsletter are minimal compared to the costs of printing and mailing, so this opens up the possibility that we could fund the Journal through donations only. This would save a lot of time processing subscriptions as it could be done through the existing OBC site Paypal account we already have. We need to research how much investment in new technology we would need to make (such as updating our publishing program, Indesign) to facilitate electronic distribution, but this is likely to be a one-off cost that would be less than printing and mailing one Journal issue.
For me the most important thing is to maintain the Journal in its function as a support for the practice of those who are drawn to our particular tradition. It exists to provide teaching and encouragment and a means of keeping in touch with the wider Sangha. If we can use recent technology to uphold that purpose whilst keeping the Journal affordable (and hence accessible) then we need not be afraid of what change may bring.
We welcome comments from our readers by email, the contact page on website: www.journal.obcon.org/contact, or letter.
More details on a timetable for transition
You are welcome to let us know what you think of our plans. Go to the contact us page and choose ‘feedback on ‘our plans’ from the drop down list.
For various reasons the US version of our Journal is losing around $1000 a year. The cost of mailing the Journal out in the UK has just risen by around 20% because of the increase in Royal Mail charges.
Although we would like to keep the printed version of the Journal going as long as there is an interest we may not be able to afford it for many more years. There is also some interest in paying for the Journal online as a donation rather than as a fixed subscription rate. In order to to do this we may have to move gradually over to a digital version of the Journal.
I believe we are in a time of transition. As e-book readers become cheaper and more popular, it may work to have the option of a digital version of the Journal available whilst still sending out a printed version. We now have this website up and running so that we have the flexibility to respond to our readers wishes as we go through this transition. I would also like us to be able to preserve some aspects of the Journal and be sure we can maintain its primary purpose which is to support those in our tradition in their practice.
Timetable for transition
This is a possible scenario – we just don’t know how things will evolve. For the first three steps we could continue to send out a printed version. I envisage this transition could occur over a 5 year period.
- Improve the Journal website with a few articles from back–issues available, a subject index, information on how to send in articles, and some opportunity to send in feedback to the editor.
- If readers and the OBC Sangha agree: to make the full previous issue of the Journal available as a downloadable pdf file, and/or e-book version – see how popular this is.
- If agreed: make the Current issue of the Journal available as a download, perhaps just for members or subscribers who can pay or donate online.
- If option three is popular: stop producing the printed version and shift the entire Journal over to ebook and pdf format, but still produce it quarterly in roughly the same design.
- If option 4 works and there is agreement: to move over to a more flexible format for the Journal so articles could appear as they are contributed, rather than being assembled in a quarterly ‘issue’.
Implications of a digital format for the Journal
- Copyright and audience. Authors would have to accept that their articles could be copied by people and pasted into other settings. We could limit the download of the Journal to ‘members’ who have to register their name and address etc. but even then it is likely that articles could be preserved and made available to a larger audience than the existing Journal. Authors may want to specify a time period and ask that their contribution be removed from the site after 5 years, for example. However, versions of their article may still remain on google servers (and other places) for considerable longer, and there is no way ( I know of), to prevent this.
- In the long term we would not be limited by 80 pages, and we could include images in articles. There would not need to be an exact deadline for articles.
- The readers could be given the opportunity to post feedback if we wished. This could be just to the Editor or author or more general. Authors could let the editor know if they want to be available by email for example for any feedback from readers.
- A website would be much easier to search than a paper index. We could have searches by subject and author built into the site.
Please send in comments through the ‘Contact us‘ link.
If you don’t want your comments posted and made public on this site, let me know, and I’ll just use it for information.
You can leave your contact details if you wish.