The Death of Developer Magazines (?)

Eric makes the point that developer magazines are dying. I would tend to agree - I don't subscribe to any technical magazines anymore, not even MSDN (although I still subscribe to American Scientist, Scientific American and others, just not developer-related magazines). Why not? The value of a magazine can't compare to the value of the content on the Internet. Maybe 10 or 5 years ago they did, but not anymore.They're a waste of money, especially when their content ends up free on the Internet (and if the content requires someone to pay for it, it's usually not that valuable enough to spend that money). I still like books - I'm a curmudgeon in that respects (it's nice to be able to drop a book and not have its hard drive or screen break). But by "books" I mean any book, not just technical books. The technical books I now get are few and far between. I don't see a need anymore to get the latest C# or WinForms or Ruby or agile development book - they usually don't have enough to justify their price [1]. I know of technical authors who are seriously looking to move to complete e-book publishing, and I think that in the near future a lot of technical books (even textbooks) will all be online. When that will happen, I have no idea (and it'll vary by community and/or country), but it's already coming and it's just a matter of time before the programming section in bookstores is gone (if not bookstores entirely).

That doesn't mean I think that information should be "free". It's just becoming harder and harder to make a book's content so advanced and/or interesting that it compels one to spend current book-like prices. However, if you remove the costs that publishers have to encur to get a book physically published, that probably helps somewhat. If you make it completely electronic, that makes the whole process easier. It also makes books more dynamic. It won't excuse an author from producing crap, but it will make errata obsolete - just publish a new version! I have a book idea or two in mind, but as I've stated in the past, I won't write because A) I don't have enough time and B) it's not worth the money. If it was all electronic, that would raise my eyebrows a bit more. I don't see any value anymore in writing a physical book - it's so odd to have a book on technology where you can't update it, unless you have a "2nd edition." I'd love to write 2nd editions of "CIL Programming" or "Applied .NET Attributes", but that'll never happen. Why? It would cost too much money. Of course, if they were e-books, I would've updated them for .NET 2.0 easily enough. What's also appealing about e-book publishing is that a reader could purchase only the chapters they want (of course, books tend to have dependencies on their chapters, but if you found a .NET book that had a really good chapter on Reflection.Emit, then just get that chapter).

Addendum: I just noticed that SD is now absorbed by Dr. Dobb's. Personally, it's just a matter of time before Dr. Dobb's bites the dust as well. I used to subscribe to both of those magazines years ago, but they became pretty thin, especially SD. I wonder when MSDN Magazine will finally call it quits? Because the writing's on the e-wall - techie magazines are worthless.

[1] That doesn't mean they're not good. I just can't see spending 40 to 60 bucks to get a book where one or two of its chapters are really what I want.

* Posted at 03.16.2006 09:48:57 PM CST | Link *

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