Photographic magazines versus Readly's all-you-can-read subscription

Posted on by Mike Evans

Do you still buy magazines? I have completely stopped buying any type of magazine, whether on photography or other subjects. Not only is it a potentially expensive business, forking out for magazines brings you a lot of news that you read in its original on the internet a month or six weeks before. Sure, feature articles are worthwhile and original but there isn’t a lot of compelling stuff any more. In fact, with magazines such as Amateur Photographer (AP) I get as much pleasure out of reading the advertisements (especially the second-hand listings) as I do out of the editorial.

Six months ago I took out a subscription to Readly and wrote about my initial experiences. Even though I don’t have a full-size iPad Air and am reading on my retina-screen iPad mini, I find consuming magazines electronically is convenient, satisfying and cheap. Even for just one magazine, such as Amateur Photographer, the £9.99 monthly subscription to Readly pays for itself. But I am also able to find six or seven other publications that I enjoy reading regularly.

Today I came across a short piece by contributor Lightmancer (Bill Palmer) on the entertaining Serious Compacts forum. It seems I am not alone in deciding not to invest in physical magazines:

I have picked up a copy of AP almost every week for the past 25 years. Let's just work that out, for a moment. It is published 51 weeks a year, and I usually miss a copy during the Summer hols, so say 50. Today's cover price is £2.95, so let's split the difference for fun, and call it £1.50 a copy on average over that time. From top to bottom it measures roughly 12 inches.

So, in the past 25 years, I have bought one thousand two hundred and fifty copies. If they were laid end to end they would stretch for about a quarter of a mile. They are about 1/6 of an inch thick, so if stacked the pile would stand about seventeen feet high. At £1.50 a copy I have invested one thousand eight hundred and seventy five pounds.

I've bought cars for less; I've had bloody good holidays for less; I could buy a lot of camera with £1875...

So let's consider content, and value. Photography has changed radically in the past twenty five years and the content of AP has likewise changed, albeit sometimes struggling to keep pace with developments. Today's magazine is nothing like the one printed in the same week in 1989. It has not just changed in subject matter, however, but in content and in editorial tone. In trying to tap into the photographic zeitgeist it is shallow and almost staccato in its treatment of topics. The contributor and editorial expertise that was evident in the past is there no longer. In spite of claiming independence, it reads increasingly like advertorial. Crucially it offers no greater depth of insight than can be found upon the internet; indeed it's own website effectively cannibalises it's own printed version. It no longer speaks to me, partly because I am not the photographer I was in 1989, but mostly because it is today a shadow of it's former self in detail, utility and integrity. I buy it, read it within the hour, and bin it.

No more. Last week was the last I shall buy. There is a part of me that is sad, but one cannot be sentimental about these things; I have been buying from habit rather than anything else. In future the only photographic magazine I will be buying on a regular basis is "Black and White". I still class myself as an amateur, but not one that finds any value in the pages of AP today.

While I agree with Bill on the aspect of cost, I do still have a soft spot for AP and I am pleased that I am able to carry on reading it while retaining my principles. I can also enjoy a stack of American photographic magazines as well as British titles such as What Car?, Autocar, What Hi-Fi, Macworld, What Digital Camera. What's more, I can keep as many back issues as I need for reference on my iPad.

There are many other contenders available to Readly subscribers but I try to keep my list manageable. Several of these publications, including AP, are posted to Readly a week or so later than they are available on news stands but, frankly, I can live with this. Most of the stuff is out of date anyway and for actual news I depend on the internet.