The Beauty of Paper

The Beauty of Paper

Once in a while, we get a question about whether we will offer a digital edition of Bicycle Quarterly. For now, we are committed to paper. I love paging through magazines with my children. Many of those magazines I have kept since I was a teenager. And I love libraries and archives – the mystery of old volumes, which haven’t been touched in decades, yet are ready to yield their secrets as soon as you open the pages. It’s a different experience from sitting in front of a screen and scrolling down the page.

Even more important is paper’s durability. In my research, I often refer to magazines like Le Cycliste, Le Cycle, Cyclo-Magazine, La Pedale Touristique, CTC Gazette and others that are 70+ years old. I have access to other collections that date back more than a century. The magazines back then often were printed on low-quality paper, so the pages have yellowed, but they remain legible even a century later. We even can scan the wonderful drawings of Daniel Rebour and Frank Patterson and bring them to you in the pages of Bicycle Quarterly. (Below is Rebour’s drawing of Jacques Anquetil’s bike on which he won the 1962 Tour de France.)

If those old magazines had been in some archaic electronic format, they would be long gone now. Daniel Rebour’s wonderful drawings of bikes and components, Frank Patterson’s masterful evocations of landscapes and cyclists, the technical analyses, the reports of rides and races…

I can’t even open the digital files for my Ph.D. dissertation any longer, which was written just 13 years ago. The files were backed up on a format that I no longer can read. (Jazz disc – remember those?). Fortunately, I have a few hardcopies.

So much research goes into every issue of Bicycle Quarterly that I want the magazines to remain a resource for as long as people care about bicycles. That is why we list sources and references, and why we print on acid-free paper. If somebody, 50 years from now, wonders about the performance of tires at various pressures, about frame stiffness, the French technical trials, or the history of the first Campagnolo parallelogram rear derailleur, then paper copies of Bicycle Quarterly will provide a starting point for new research. Building on existing knowledge means that real progress can be made, rather than every generation having to start all over again.

We strive to reduce our environmental impact. Bicycle Quarterly‘s paper has the largest recycled content we can find. We run a paper-less office: We don’t even send you a paper packing slip when you order from us. We have been recognized as a “bicycle-friendly business” by the League of American Bicyclists. We even do most local deliveries by bike.

Of all the paper you get in the mail every year, the 288 pages of Bicycle Quarterly make only a small impact. And many years from now, we hope you will pass your copies along to a young, enthusiastic cyclist, who will treasure them as much as you have.

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Comments (46)

  • Keith Snyder

    Since .epub files (what pretty much everything but Kindle uses: iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Calibre, Adobe Digital Editions) are basically little CSS-based websites, zipped, they’ll probably be easy to translate into future formats without much fuss. I like paper too, but I’d put money on .epubs remaining available to a wider readership for a much longer time.

    July 14, 2011 at 7:27 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      In theory, all the old formats still are legible. I could hook up my old Jaz drive to somebody’s old computer or maybe even buy an adapter. The discs should be legible… but it’s a lot of effort to maintain the data. Before you know it, the archives are gone because nobody transcribed the data as formats changed and discs deteriorated. With 6000+ paper copies of Bicycle Quarterly in circulation, there will be somebody who has them on their bookshelf even a century from now.

      July 14, 2011 at 8:10 am
      • William M. deRosset

        Dear Jan,
        My industry has struggled historically with deteriorating media/very obsolete file formats/media, and we now transfer project archives to hard drives (keep up to date on the drivers, though!), which have proven reasonably stable (unlike CDs, tape (though tape isn’t too bad), rewriteable DVD’s, etc). In a couple of cases, all we have is the paper archive (of a numerical modeling effort), done thirty years prior, and we get to reconstruct the historical work before we can move forward with a job.
        Paper copies are a good thing.
        Best Regards,
        William M. deRosset
        Fort Collins, CO

        July 14, 2011 at 10:07 am
    • Erik Sandblom

      The problem isn’t that the file formats are technically inadequate, it’s that after a long time, most people simply won’t know how to open them. And the fact that they are zipped makes it pretty difficult if you don’t have a zipper, or don’t know that you need one.

      July 14, 2011 at 10:29 am
  • John Le Marquand

    I have stopped reading printed material and use my iPad or Kindle for reading and find I am reading more but your magazine is one that I not only read but keep. If your magazine came out in a digital edition & a printed edition I would still want a hard copy for the very reasons you have stated in your editorial.
    At some future date you might consider archiving your magazine in digital format and charge a fee for people who wish to access past articles when it is no longer possible to purchase previous issues in the printed format.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:00 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      There are indeed good arguments for a digital edition, in addition to the paper magazine. Unfortunately, it takes all our time, 50+ hours a week, just to put together the paper Bicycle Quarterly. Adding a digital version would increase the workload beyond what we can handle. Another issue is protection – Bicycle Quarterly is affordable only because we print 6000+ copies, spreading the cost of the research and writing over a large audience. And finally, the image quality of readers just doesn’t compare to paper. The files we bring to the printer for each issue of Bicycle Quarterly are much too big to be downloaded efficiently.
      To help with searching past articles, check out the following online resources:
      Table of contents at
      Articles organized by topics at
      Glossary (which tells you in which issue the term appeared) at

      July 14, 2011 at 11:39 am
      • Keith Snyder

        If you’re using InDesign (which anyone interested in the marriage of functionality and grace should be; it planes on deadline), the new version (CS5.5) can get you most of the way to an epub from the same files you use for print. Some tweaking required, but not much, especially if you have repeating elements, which you do.
        I’m anything but negative about Bicycle Quarterly, in whatever form you choose to publish it in–rather, just letting you know that’s the case. Print to epub in a couple of hours, once it’s all set up and templated. Potential for expanding audience: Unknown.

        July 14, 2011 at 11:58 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          It’s not just generating the files, but also distributing them. I have looked into electronic magazine subscription services like Zinio, and I was underwhelmed. By coincidence, I got the same magazine through my e-subscription and, a week later, on paper (my family bought it for me, not knowing about the e-subscription). I found that I read about 6 pages of the e-magazine, but every page of the paper one. As a result, I dropped the e-subscription and now buy the paper copy at my favorite newsstand.
          On the other hand, I read the daily papers online. There is no need to generate huge piles of paper that gets recycled almost immediately. And I don’t have time to read more than three or four articles a day anyhow.

          July 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm
  • Will

    I would subscribe in a heart beat if there was a digital version. I would prefer it on the Kindle, but any format would be fine. I can understand your position, but data portability/durability is no argument for paper. Only when printed pages are digitized do they truly become universally accessible indefinitely. One can use OCR, make searchable text, machine translatable, accessible to the blind, converted into other formats, backed-up to old or new media (or the web), increase font size & resolution, etc.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:00 am
    • Łukasz Gruner

      I second to that.
      The only thing that keeps me from subscribing is that there is no digital version.
      And about addidtional work required to create e-version, you probably already use a computer to make the paper version, exporting that to ie. epub is just another ‘click’.
      Paper is easily destroyed, digital documents live forever. You can store them in a cloud, and if some format stops being popular, you just convert all your library to the new one.
      Your opinion may differ, but I find paper books just to bulky and big. I can fit at most 2 ‘normal’ books to my backpack (not that my backpack is small, I just have other things there), or I can take ebook reader thats tiny and carries 1k+ different books at a time.

      July 14, 2011 at 2:52 pm
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        The little research I have done shows that digital publications still are a very small portion of the marketplace, and in some cases, they actually are shrinking. For major magazines like Vanity Fair, less than 1% of the circulation is digital. For Bicycle Quarterly, the resulting digital subscriptions would be too few to make it worth while.
        It appears that many “would-be” readers hope that a digital subscription would be lower-priced, but again, experience shows that the administration of digital subscriptions costs as much as printing magazines on paper. If you have a magazine paid for by advertising, then it’s easy to just distribute free pdfs to anybody who wants them. More circulation means more ads, which means more income. However, Bicycle Quarterly is supported by its readers, which allows us to be independent of the bike industry, but it also means that we need our readers to pay for our contents. See also our blog entry “Who pays for your magazine?”

        July 14, 2011 at 3:18 pm
  • John Doncevic

    As a librarian I appreciate the sentiment. It’s important for posterity that all new issues of any publication be printed on acid free, Ph neutral paper, which should give over 500 years if using normal (photocopy grade) paper. I just checked with a Ph pen the BQ latest issue (Vol 9, no. 4) and it is indeed acid free. Then I checked VBQ (Vol 1, no. 1), and I’m happy to report that it, too, is acid free. They will be around for generations to come, thankfully. Other publications that were not printed on acid free paper (1930s to 1970s are especially bad), can be deacidified, which will stop acidic breakdown, although deacidification won’t repair acid damage done before the application. Brittle paper cannot be rejuvenated. -John

    July 14, 2011 at 10:11 am
  • Chris Lowe

    I don’t think it’s an either/or situation. I read plenty of print and electronic formats and enjoy both. It really depends on the material. I recently switched my subscription for The Economist to their iPad format because it seems wasteful to mail me a paper copy which I will only read once and then toss in the recycling bin. I also read all of my newspapers electronically. OTOH, I keep my print copies of Monocle and Bicycle Quarterly.
    I would like to see an electronic format of Bicycle Quarterly as a supplement/compliment to the print addition as it would make the task of finding old articles or parts of articles much easier. Often times I find myself trying to remember something I read and want to look up but not remembering the exact article it was in. With paper I’m pretty much out of luck unless I want to spend considerable time digging through multiple articles. With electronic formats I could simply do a search for a few keywords and quickly find what I’m looking for. There’s also the portability factor – if I’m traveling somewhere I like the fact that I can access a wide variety of reading material all from one compact device. Much better than lugging around a stack of books and magazines. An electronic format also allows for color images to be more easily incorporated without additional expense. You could even include video clips – it would be nice to see footage of some of these machines being ridden at speed.
    Print will never be replaced by digital just as few other technologies fully replace prior technologies. Planes haven’t replaced trains, TV hasn’t replaced the radio, etc.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:12 am
    • Erik Sandblom

      @Chris Lowe
      “With paper I’m pretty much out of luck unless I want to spend considerable time digging through multiple articles.”
      On the other hand, during the time it takes to dig, you’ll probably find articles you’ve forgotten about, or want to read again because your views might have changed since you first read them.
      Apart from the online table of contents etc Jan refers to above, I’ve found the footnotes to be a good way of navigating back issues.

      July 14, 2011 at 12:28 pm
      • Chris Lowe

        There are those happy coincidences but sometimes I just want the answer I’m looking for.

        July 14, 2011 at 4:36 pm
  • Christopher Davis

    While I love paper, I rarely bring any magazines or books with me when I’m on the move. The idea of paper printing is pretty well outlived it’s usefulness. I won’t subscribe until there is an e-edition. I’m sure I’m not the only one of the younger folks who feel that way. I take my computer with me everywhere (even on rides) for a reason, I can have instant access to the worlds knowledge. You don’t need to stop producing a paper edition just create a pdf version than can be emailed and let me worry of archiving.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:34 am
  • Keith Snyder

    Yes, somebody will–including me (one of my six-year-olds loves Bicycle Quarterly, so he’ll get my collection when I’m dead).
    I’ve got old Jaz disks too, not to mention SyQuest and 3.5″ floppy. However, there’s not a disk format in this equation anymore; books and magazines in epub format are distributed all over the place: Amazon, Google Books, pirate collections in various clouds. Today on a whim, I just gave away epubs of my last novel; there have been over 100 downloads in the last hour, each of which is another little genome with a possibility of surviving the other 99 disk failures.
    I do love paper, and I love inks, and computer screens just can’t do that. But epub is going to outlast anything on a shelf.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:59 am
  • Gary S.

    Timely blog. I just renewed my subscription last night and thought to myself how much more convenient it would be to purchase and read a digital version of BQ. It would eliminate the frequent mangling of your mag by my postman as well as the seemingly endless wait until my copy reaches me on the East Coast. I’m not suggesting that you do away with the paper copy, but rather asking you to consider adding a digital version. If nothing else, it would give me a reason not to allow my greasy-handed riding buddy to mar the pages of my mag. By the way, print photos and diagrams pale in comparison to the digital versions which appear to pop from the screen of my iPad.

    July 14, 2011 at 11:41 am
    • Chris Lowe

      “By the way, print photos and diagrams pale in comparison to the digital versions which appear to pop from the screen of my iPad.”
      That’s because the photos are not very good to begin with, not because the iPad is better. Computer screens still can’t match the resolution of a printer. They’re also pretty poor at properly representing colors, especially blacks. Look at an Ansel Adams photo on an iPad and look at the same photo properly reproduced in a high quality art book – there’s just no comparison (and I say this as someone who LOVES my iPad!)

      July 14, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    i would echo the sentiment that though i do love reading the paper magazine at home, i would *totally* appreciate an electronic edition that i could access online. I would especially love a searchable portal that allowed access to old stories and reviews. since coming late to BQ (within the past two years), there have been numerous times where i saw on the website that a review was done on certain bike or topic years ago that i wouldn’t necessarily buy the old BQ paper edition, but would pay a bit for immediate access. jan, i’m sad your experience with old storage formats is negatively coloring your view of online access, which are two completely separate things.
    you can do both, paper and online. this is not an either/or situation. thanks!

    July 14, 2011 at 11:48 am
  • Mark P

    You knew you were opening a can of worms, didn’t you?
    As a road warrior I truly appreciate digital media because it’s extremely portable, and I don’t lose or soil my hard copy while on the road. On the other hand…
    I also appreciate the longevity of print. I have a shelf full of 80s and 90s bicycle magazines (and now a few 50’s) that simply don’t exist any more, and have great articles.
    From the practical standpoint I appreciate the value of a dual subscription. The added value of digital is increased exposure and distribution without an increase in physical print costs. Have you seen any kind of case studies that might suggest what circulation increase might be experienced if you offer a digital version? Enough to create another position in your company to support the extra workload?

    July 14, 2011 at 1:19 pm
  • Will

    Ebooks have now surpassed paperbacks at (the largest book seller in the world). I don’t think you need to support one or the other. Many publications do both. I’m sure many readers would subscribe at the same rate. Amazon, B&N, Apple, Sony, Mobipocket, etc provide the distribution and infrastructure, so you wouldn’t have to do any work in that department.

    July 14, 2011 at 3:32 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Amazon, B&N, Apple, Sony, Mobipocket, etc provide the distribution and infrastructure

      Amazon et al. take a large cut to provide the infrastructure. At the same time, the per-copy print price would go up if we printed fewer magazines. The result would be a higher subscription price for everybody, and those who want both digital and print would have to pay twice as much as they do now. Of course, if we turned over the entire distribution to Amazon or somebody like that, then they could bundle the subscriptions. However, our business model does not work well with these companies for a number of reasons… Bicycle Quarterly is unique among cycling magazines, and part of that uniqueness is its format.

      July 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm
  • Keith Snyder

    Posting multiple times makes me feel like I’ve got a dog in this fight, but I really don’t. Just for clarification:
    Nobody means PDFs when they talk about ebooks or e-magazines, and I doubt I know anybody who’d want to read one.
    Zinion (from just poking around for a minute) seems to be high-end interactive magazines: iPad-type stuff involving scripting and multimedia with a high whiz-bang factor. Could be wrong; it’s a quick impression.
    The distinction between types of content delivery is probably not obvious unless you actually have a Nook, Kindle, or iPad, and use it a lot, but I agree none of the above would seem suitable for a publication like Bicycle Quarterly. I’d think more epub (Nook, iBooks) and mobi (Kindle). Text, images, done.

    July 14, 2011 at 3:48 pm
  • Pondero

    I have every issue, and I intend to keep them all. I refer back to past issues often. The sensory experience is as pleasant as my downtube friction shifter and is a significant part of the appeal. Thank you for the sturdy paper version of your publication.

    July 14, 2011 at 5:00 pm
  • Mark Eastman

    I read both digital versions and print. While digital makes publications instantly accessible plus allows harder to find or otherwise not available print media more accessible, I still prefer printed versions for certain things and digital for others. There still is nothing like a printed magazine or book. With a digital version, you have less of a sense of scale of the original when viewing because it’s fixed to a device window that you zoom/unzoom or scroll all around. Print publications are portable, random access never need batteries. Print, by far, is overall easier to read for extended periods of time than digital because you are viewing typography that’s printed with ink on paper rather than pixels reproduced on a backlit RGB monitor.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:11 pm
    • Will

      Have you tried a Kindle, Sony Reader or other eInk device? It really is like paper. It is not LCD. While the iPad is LCD, it is very high resolution and quite good. Although, personally I prefer the Kindle to all other ebook readers I’ve tried.

      July 14, 2011 at 9:10 pm
  • Michael Richters

    Your arguments in favor of a paper version are compelling. Your arguments against an electronic version are mostly weak, particularly the point about files on old disk formats. I, too, have lost old electronic files. Like yours, these were things I had created, which were never distributed in any format. Your publication is not comparable. If it were distributed in electronic form, there would not be a single point of failure.
    As for paper — yes, it doesn’t become more difficult to read over time, but I can only read the things that I have preserved for myself. I can’t read all those wonderful old magazines that you have on your bookshelves. Unless they’ve been scanned and distributed on the internet, that is…
    Look back farther in history, and you’ll find a different reason why some documents survive and others do not. The medium that they were recorded on plays a part, of course, but what matters even more is how many copies were made, and how widely those copies traveled. If your goal is to make something last as long as possible, carve it in stone and bury it, or distribute as many copies as possible. Or both.
    Whether or not it makes fiscal sense to distribute electronic copies of a publication is a separate question.

    July 14, 2011 at 8:37 pm
  • Lovely Bicycle!

    The way I see it, is that it’s not about what’s popular on amazon or what the majority would vote for based on current notions of convenience. It’s about the philosophy behind Bicycle Quarterly. BQ is not exactly a mainstream magazine. It has a distinct approach to research, history, and even to the very process of “experiencing.” I think your decision to go with an archivable paper format reflects all of this in an appropriate manner.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:10 pm
  • Andrew

    Piracy: once you let the genie out of the bottle and digitise a work, there is no stopping it getting shared around.

    July 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm
  • Rob Markwardt

    When magazines go digital only is the day I stop reading them. I sit in front of this screen long enough.
    “Changes aren’t permanent, but change is.” Rush

    July 14, 2011 at 10:40 pm
  • Christopher Davis

    I just read through all the comments, not one person said the e-subscription would or should be cheaper. The rational that because amazon etc. take a cut to provide the infrsturcture is again weak. Just say “gentlemen this magazine is my ship and as is captain we will not be providing and e-version because I believe the proper medium is paper.”
    Comparing your magazine to the ones listed the are “shrinking” is also weak. You are in a completely different market with a completely different socio-economic background. See post above, by argueing your point you’ve opend yourself up for debate which you really weren’t looking for.

    July 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We have been looking into e-subscriptions, because we do listen to our readers. However, our business model is based on direct sales to readers. It’s the same with our books. Every publisher I approached said that a book with $ 50,000 worth of photography on bicycles didn’t stand a chance. It would have to be too expensive to reach a wide audience. The economics would not work. The reason the book would have to be so expensive is because it then would be discounted by Amazon et al. And that would cut deeply into direct sales, unless we discount the book, too. Which then would leave no room for bookstores and bike shops who actually might recommend our book, show it to potential readers, etc. Basically, you’d get an $ 85 book that you could buy from Amazon and from us for $ 60, but bookstores and bike shops would try to charge $ 85 (and sell very few). Yet it is the bookstores and bike shops that help us make the book popular, whereas Amazon et al. simply fill orders from people who already know the book exists.
      Instead, our approach has been to sell direct and work with bookstores and bike shops who actively promote the book. The book costs the same low $ 60 price everywhere, which means we sell enough directly to readers to cover our costs, while the sales through bookstores and bike shops mostly serve to promote the book, but bring in little money. The same model applies to Bicycle Quarterly – it’s very inexpensive considering the amount of carefully-researched information you get. The low price allows for wide distribution, which in turn helps us keep the price low. There simply isn’t room for a middleman, unless they actively promote the magazine by displaying it in their shop.

      July 15, 2011 at 7:12 am
  • Garth

    For a while I worked in the Rare Books room of my university library. The archivist was very adamant that “if I don’t see it and can’t hold it in my hands, it doesn’t exist”. He then showed me a box of silver wire on spools that once upon a time someone had recorded sound onto.
    I would argue that if something is important enough to be saved, there will be people who make the efforts to save something. Of course you can argue that if generations are skipped, that information is lost, as commonly happens.
    Another aspect isn’t the specific knowledge in those Bicycle Quarterlies, though. It’s how that information is currently being impregnated into contemporary bicycle culture, where the lasting effects are also to be seen. Jan’s research is (re)becoming a part of bicycle evolution. No one knows who invented the wheel, but it is still with us!
    Jan, I am glad BQ is acid free. I store mine in archival boxes, laid down flat. However, I am disappointed with the Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles – the edges of the paper began to yellow in about a year’s time. It is stored next to other books which have not yellowed. It is one of my favorite books. Thanks

    July 14, 2011 at 11:19 pm
  • Conrad

    I agree with your archivist. I’m no computer whiz but it seems like various electronic formats become obsolete really quickly. I have some Ascent Sierra Club journals from the 1970s that are still beautiful, fun to read, and will always be in my library. Same goes for Bicycle Quarterly. Truly high quality material should be printed and it will last longer than any electronic format. Not many people have the specialized knowledge to retrieve data from obsolete or arcane electronic files. No one is going to forget how to open a book anytime soon.

    July 15, 2011 at 10:38 pm
    • Keith Snyder

      If we take the question of long-term archiving on its own, the solution most closely approaching reliability seems to me to be the combination of printed form AND a digital format with the most likely future-proofing. Since .epub is just a .zip file with a mini-website inside it (using very limited subsets of HTML and CSS), it seems a good bet that it will be extractable by technologies to come.
      It’s not as though any of us actually know what the year 2111 will hold–rimless wheels? frameless bikes? calorieless fudge?–but as document longevity bets go, that’s how I’d hedge it.

      July 16, 2011 at 7:52 am
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        Reliability is in numbers. Documents that exist only in a few copies have a low survival rate. By putting 6000+ copies of Bicycle Quarterly out there, some are sure to survive. (Neither Le Cycliste nor Le Cycle had print runs nearly that large.) It’s the same with bike parts: 650B was becoming obsolete, and tires were hard to find, because there were too few riders on 650B bikes. Now that has changed, and new 650B tires and rims continue to come to the market.
        Beyond that, I suspect 2111 will not be all that different from today. Decades ago, who would have thought that today, many of us ride bikes with 1940s wheels and geometry, and that we wish we still could get hand-made 1940s tires… We are even re-introducing a 1940s crankset! This is not to say that there hasn’t been progress – generator hubs and clipless pedals come to mind – but my childhood was full of predictions that in 2000, we’d all fly around in supersonic hovercrafts and obtain our nutrition in form of pills. Fortunately, it hasn’t worked out that way… and “obsolete” technologies like bicycles and locally grown food have made a resurgence.

        July 16, 2011 at 9:56 am
  • Max Jenkins

    I could not agree more – please stick with paper. In fact, the quality of the paper and printing of your Quarterly is noteworthy and suitable to the unparalleled quality of the content – simply the finest publication of its type in existence.

    July 16, 2011 at 7:10 am
  • Christopher Davis

    Mr. Heine you’re on the wrong side of history arguing and argument that doesn’t hold water based on assumptions, like we won’t pay more for an e subscription. When the app store came out, companies went overboard about the 30% cut that Apple took..we’ll be broke in a quarter..etc. the reality it turned out to be that everyone made serious money. I would pay 85 dollars for your book if I can keep it on my computer, I will not however pay 60 and have to keep it on a bookshelf no matter how pretty.

    July 16, 2011 at 10:08 am
  • Keith Snyder

    Taking a point to its logical conclusion:
    If reliability is in numbers (and, I’d add, in dispersion, both geographical and platform-ical), then adding BQ ebooks to the print copies bolsters the chance of survival.
    I don’t think paper’s obsolete. But I also don’t think ebooks are a fad—and .epub, their primary form, is a subset of HTML/CSS: You can unzip an epub, drag it into a web browser, and read it. Short of nuclear holocaust and civilization having to rebuild from scratch, I just don’t see HTML becoming a cryptic and inaccessible technology.
    Now, if that DOES happen, the third or fourth generation of survivors will be glad to have paper copies of Bicycle Quarterly around. But since there will also probably be even more surviving issues of Bicycling, grunted arguments while a scrawny mutated rabbit chars on a spit will probably center on the benefits of carbon seat posts.
    I like paper better than I like ebook, and I like spot color better than I like CMYK printing. I’m perfectly happy to get BQ in paper, and it’s easier to share with my kid that way. But I think the future-proofing arguments I’m reading here are on the weak side.

    July 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm
  • Ira Kinro

    I’m dyslexic to the point that the print copy is basically useless. I scan magazines into my computer one page at a time so that my computer can read them to me. Of course, I would be overjoyed if I didn’t have to go through so much trouble. For me (and for many other dyslexic/blind/visually impaired/otherwise learning disabled cyclists), that would be the point of electronic distribution. However, since I can not buy electronic copies of some magazines, I make them myself. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    July 16, 2011 at 5:44 pm
  • Dan Boxer

    I, too, am not interested in a digital copy of Bicycle Quarterly. I have copies of VBQ that I read and re-read over and over while bicycle touring with my wife in 2004-’05, across the U.S.A. and through Europe and Morocco.
    Invariably, there were times when living on the road became a chore and I questioned my choice to continue traveling. All that would disappear when I found a new copy of VBQ in the care packages from Katie’s mother in Seattle (she forwarded our mail, bless her heart).
    I spent many an hour, and countless since, poring over the articles and re-printed Daniel Rebour drawings, learning and comparing the theories with my own on-the-road experience. I give much credit to VBQ for the fact that I had no idea where I would live upon our return to the States, but knew exactly where I would be last two weeks of September 2005 and what I would be doing (UBI, Chromoly brazing Framebuiling course).
    Yes, those copies of the magazine are a bit worn, discolored and display the curvature of my overstuffed panniers. To me, the marks add character and bring me back to a wonderful adventure, which I’ll likely not repeat in this lifetime.
    Many have remarked on how they are carefully preserving their copies of VBQ and BQ. One mentioned concerns about his greasy-handed buddies marring the pages of his mags.
    I am careful with my copies, but I do not fret too long when I’ve splashed a little morning beverage on one. Sure, there’s a moment of cursing, a forehead slap and some quick blotting with a towel, but no tears lost there. However, I never hesitate to share them with my friends, It’s always with a pointer to a specific article or series of articles. How better to promote the magazine than to let your friends sample the contents?
    If the magazine returns to me with a few extra fingerprints on it, so be it. I say it’s still serving it’s purpose. If a friend were to trash the copy, I’d tell them to keep it and get me another back issue. No big deal, the information is shared and BQ gets to sell another magazine. Hooray to that!
    If a digital version proves to be economically feasible and lucrative, then by all means go for it. If not, at least we have such a fine publication to enjoy. In fact, I think I’ll turn off this infernal machine and go re-visit a fine test review of the Frances Smallhaul cargo bike (BQ Vol.7, No.2 Winter 2008). Joy on a rainy day, I say!

    July 17, 2011 at 11:42 am
  • Kaj

    I feel compelled to post a comment in support of the “low-tech” but high-quality paper magazine after reading so many in support of a E-version. While I obviously use a computer – or I would not be posting this comment- I do not own a cellular phone and all the other e-gadgets out there. Will I have to buy a electronic gizmo in order to read BQ in the furture? How much broken and out dated computer and electronics end up in the landfill every year?….but that is another issue. I love books, books stores, libraries and even though I travel a lot, both internationally on foot and long distance cycle touring, there is always room in a pannier or ruck sack for a book or magazine. Indeed BQ magazines have come with me to Europe in my bag a number of times and for me reading a book in my tent in the alpine or on a sail boat is comforting. How many memories I have of being storm-bound with a book. Where am I going to re-charge my electronic thingamabob in the middle of knowwhere with out more high-tech stuff. Nope, I like everything about picking up and enjoying the quality of BQ’s magazines and they are right next to my 20 years of Canadian Alpine Club Journals. Oh, I’m 40 years old for demographic purposes. Love the magazine and although I should subscribe I still enjoy going into my local bike shop – Fairfield Bikes and seeing if it is in yet….waiting for the summer issue!

    July 18, 2011 at 8:01 am
  • Seth Vidal

    Your argument about digital copies is not really about the digital format that the files are in but the obsolescence of the media they were stored on. That’s just like saying that non-acid-free paper copy will dissolve over time. It will. But if you have an acid-free copy it will be mostly okay.
    If you have the actual data file of your old papers I’m sure opening/editing/reading them would be no trouble at all (or at the very least possible). Data formats, despite claims to the contrary have not changed dramatically in the last 30-40 yrs.
    I think a lot of people see the concept of digital copies as an dichotomy of either one version or the other. I think it can easily be both.
    If you look into how the epub files are generated and how you could even host them yourself.
    Heck, with 6000 subscribers it would probably be possible to individually watermark 6000 copies of the epub so you could trace back who loaned whom a copy of it. 🙂
    I’m not upset that there is not a digital version of BQ but I do like reading both and being able to blow up the font size and/or increase the resolution on an ipad is a dear convenience to me and to others.
    Thanks for the effort and thought you put into your magazine and business. I hope you do not take my remarks as un-constructive criticism.

    July 18, 2011 at 9:31 am
  • Jammy

    Lens Work is one high quality publication that’s wrestled with similar issues and eventually brought out a .pdf version of it’s publication. Granted their material and focus on images is different than BQ’s focus and their distribution is larger, that steered them in the direction of PDF’s that are easily viewed on PC’s and tablets.
    Going the PDF route does raise the issue of copy protection and finding your issues traded in back allies of bicycle forums like illicit substances will happen…

    July 18, 2011 at 10:00 am

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