Monday, August 25, 2008

Mygazines - Here For A Good Time

Today I want to write about a useful new website that won't be around for long.

Mygazines allows people to upload PDF scans of magazines for anyone - well, any registered reader, and registration is free - to read. You can select single articles, and, of course, skip the ads if you like.

They've got a fairly good selection available now. Until the last time I checked it, a few minutes ago, the Top Ranked magazines featured on the home page always seemed to be Cosmopolitan and clones. This last time, though, Mad, Men's Health, FHM, and (believe it or not) Tactical Weapons were featured. Things are looking up.

They've got a decent selection of computer and music magazines; I hoard actual print editions of those (and others). There are large stacks of magazines like Guitar For The Practicing Musician, Christianity Today, Maximum PC, MoneySense, Compute's Gazette, and anything with a Beatle on the cover squirrelled away all over my house.

One of my many long-term projects that'll probably never get done is to scan those magazines, and dispose of the print editions (probably via eBay). This website shows that I'm not the only person with plans of digitization.

The website isn't perfect. For one thing, it doesn't fit my monitor screen cleanly no matter what resolution I try. Perhaps it's formatted for widescreen monitors.

For another, the magazines are only readable in slow-loading popup windows, and they can't be saved for offline reading. Digitized magazines are already at a disadvantage in that I can't haul them to the breakfast table (or the bathroom, for that matter) as easily as their dead-tree equivalents; having to stay online and read them in a clunky interface is another deficit. Even downloadable PDFs that Foxit Reader would let me view as I see fit would be a big improvement. (Yes, Foxit Reader - I abandoned the official Adobe reader client long ago, and probably won't be back.)

I recently found out that Maximum PC actually allows PDF downloads of complete old issues, straight from their website. This is a great idea that pretty much all publishers should be doing. Really, what's the market value of the content from a year-old magazine anyway? At least by providing the PDF themselves they control the quality, and can make sure that the ads are included (if they want them to be - which can be a negotiation point with their advertisers).

About the only types of magazines for which this model wouldn't work are those which are purchased specifically for licenced content. Consider crochet magazines with patterns, or (more my area) guitar magazines with transcriptions. Since those magazines contain information with some lasting shelf life, giving their content away after a few months probably wouldn't be workable. So, those will remain available only on the uncontrolled black market of filesharing, often with the ads removed.

I'm really, really glad I don't make a living in a way that relies on "intellectual property". All such industries are completely doomed.

One other strong word of warning about Mygazines: when I first registered my account, they offered to "check and see if any of my friends were already there". All you have to do is give them the username and password to your GMail or Yahoo Mail account, and they'll check the addresses in your address book to see if any of them are registered.

Oh, sure, owners of a legally questionable website based in some tropical country with no copyright (or other) laws - here's my Google account username and password. Would you like my credit card numbers, and maybe a key to my house and a schedule of when nobody's home?

Just say no to the "see if my friends are here" option.

Overall, Mygazines is definitely worth checking out if you're a periodicals fan. It doesn't beat the convenience of an actual magazine in your hands, but it's great for keeping an eye on what's going on over a wide range of publications.

Enjoy it while it lasts, though. I understand the lawyers are already circling, and copyright laws will probably be shutting them down in very short order. If that won't work, expect them to be attacked in other ways (hacking, DDOS attacks, etc.) that render the site basically unusable. I like this site, but I figure it's got the life expectancy of a cupcake in Rosie O'Donnell's neighbourhood.

Enough rambling. Here's a blurry picture of toys on a shelf.

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