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Print-Only in 2016? Girl, please.
June 2, 2016

(This essay was originally posted on Medium.)

While browsing the interwebs this morning, I happened across a social media account for a new magazine (which will not be named).

The branding was gorgeous, the styling was on point and the photographs were perfection. I expect it to be one of those indie-published artistic creations that publishes 2–4 times per year. The first issue features incredible content. I won’t go into specifics about what the magazine includes but it’s safe to say that I wanted it in front of my eyeballs.

I browsed on over to where to purchase the first issue. $20.

Okay. That’s a lot. That must be for the print version. Makes sense. Printed magazines are expensive, especially when they are produced by small companies. That’s fine, I’ll just grab the digital version.
But there wasn’t one. The only option they offer for this issue is print.

$20 for the magazine. That’s $26.34 Canadian dollars by today’s exchange rate. Free shipping within the US, which is nice. Except I live in Canada. And they don’t even offer shipping outside of the United States. So, not only is this magazine expensive to purchase, I can’t even get it if I was willing to pay that much for it.

This may surprise some people but there are a lot of people who live outside the United States. In fact, most people live outside of the US, a few of which would be willing to buy this pretty magazine with interesting articles.

Assuming this magazine will only appeal to people living in countries with large English-speaking populations, this magazine has decided to say “No. We don’t want your money!” to potential customers in:

  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • India
  • China

Ya know. I’m not going to name them all. Just look at this list and you’ll get the gist. I assume they didn’t want to deal with having to ship out of the US because that can get complicated real fast. And most of their potential readership is probably in the United States anyway. I get that.

I take no issue in wanting to produce a beautiful print magazine. I’m a graphic designer. I understand the appeal of glossy, high-quality paper and bright colors. I get that too.

It’s the short-sightedness of only offering a print version. I would have gladly slapped down $10 ($13.17 Canadian) for a PDF version. Happily.


I’ve seen publications do fantastic things with digital versions—interactive elements, options to view more photos of a feature with just the swipe of a finger, graphics that fade in and slide down into view as you “turn the page.” You could make an app. You could do an e-newsletter that goes right to a person’s inbox in exchange for a few bucks every month. You could do a blog and get paid advertising. There are so many digital options available that not taking advantage of a single one just doesn’t make sense to me.

The cost of printing a high-quality magazine can be extraordinary, especially if you are expecting to sell under 1000 copies. I work in advertising so I have a pretty good idea of how pricy this project would be. Part of the process of putting it together would have been submitting a PDF of the magazine to a printer. All this company needed to do was save a copy of the PDF and put it up for sale, letting the dollars roll in.

Who doesn’t like easy money? (Psst. The answer is “anyone who publishes a print-only magazine.”)
In addition to graphic design, I’m also an author. I sell way more ebooks than print copies, but I offer both. It’s almost as if people like having options when purchasing reading material!

Plus, won’t somebody please think of the trees?

Okay, I’ll be honest: it’s not so much the cutting down of trees and slicing them into submission that bothers me. (Like I said, I work in advertising. I’m part of the problem.)

Magazines usually get read once and then placed on a shelf, a coffee table or in a (ugh) bathroom magazine rack. For $20, most people won’t be throwing out this specific magazine. They will keep it on their coffee table until a glass of Merlot gets spilled upon it and then it will be thrown out, never to be perused again.

Do you know how many declutter-your-life books are out there? I don’t. (I just did a search on Amazon for “declutter” and got 20 pages of results.) One of the top things decluttering experts (God, I can’t believe that’s a real thing.) suggest is to get rid of magazines you don’t read anymore. Digital magazines are just an easier option for a lot of people.

Putting out a new print-only magazine is like an up-and-coming musician releasing his music on vinyl or CD only. Sure, a handful of people would enjoy the vinyl but he could actually afford to keep creating his art and make a living if he released his music on iTunes and got it out to more people.

What I’m saying is: options=yay! Print-only=poo poo.

Jeez. Is it terrible that I want to publish my own digital magazine now, just out of spite?

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Jillianne Hamilton writes delightful historical fiction and historical romance featuring rebellious ladies and happy endings.

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