Thursday, August 05, 2004

WTF PDF?

In a recent email on his BAD SIGNAL list, Warren Ellis threw out an idea for a .pdf-based magazine:

Short fiction works best on a computer screen. Get yourself donated a bunch of 500-word fictions. Get yourself donated the art to go with them, and whatever other elements you think a breakthrough sf magazine should contain. Don't make it sprawl. Keep it tight -- no more than a 1.44 meg download, for instance.

And BitPass it. Put it behind a micropayment gate. Say a Yanqui dollar. Which doesn't sound a lot, but remember the bulk of a short-run magazine's cover price is eaten by production, printing and distribution, and all you're covering is time and bandwidth.

Put it out and plug it where you can, and whatever you make is your war chest for your next issue -- where you use the same people and pay them for their time from said war chest, all the money moved around by PayPal or money orders.

Just an idea. Thought I'd release it out into the wild.


Some people are taking exception to this idea, as Regie Rigby highlights in the latest Fool Britannia on Silver Bullet Comics:

It’s just that, well, it’s already been done, hasn’t it? Silver Bullet readers should be familiar with a publication called Borderline, which was a .pdf comics magazine of about 1.44megs distributed through the Internet. Ran for ages and had a world wide readership that was frankly huge.

The idea didn’t need releasing into the wild Warren – it was already there. But perhaps it just passed him by – just because he’s in comics doesn’t mean that he reads everything there is.


Regie's column includes quotes from Phil Hall, one of the creators of Borderline. He was a bit hacked off and called Warren Ellis a cunt.

Warren responded on Bad Signal:

Apparently, when I was talking about doing a paid fiction magazine in PDF format, I forgot about a comics journalism magazine called BORDERLINE that was released in PDF a few years back. The couple of issues I recall downloaded were
nicely laid out but not especially good, but, according to the rant in the above link, it ran for some 20 issues. Of course, I was talking about a form that could
be used for a fiction magazine, so there was no reason BORDERLINE would come to mind, really.

...

Anyway, Phil's always had my email address and my phone number, but I guess it's much easier to just call me names on a website...


A careful reading of Warren's original email shows that yes, he was talking about a fiction magazine and no, it didn't include any kind of assumed trademark or patent on the idea of a .pdf magazine. What's funny is that doing a .pdf magazine isn't really all that new--they've around as long as Adobe Acrobat has been--and they are really unfriendly to navigate on a computer screen if they aren't done right. So anyone doing one should make sure they are worth the paper they'll need to be printed on.

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