Tag: scientific american

Editorial Changes

As my wife will attest, I am a creature of habit. There is nothing extraordinary about this to me, as it seems this is the way I have always been. It does mean that when things change, I can get a little uneasy. This change goes for many things, including the editors of the magazines I read. I remember, for instance, a decade ago when Mariette DiChristina took over the helm at Scientific American from John Rennie. What changes would that mean for the magazine I’d been reading for a long time?

Some months back, after Kathleen Fleury left her post as editor of Down East magazine and Brian Kevin took over, I began each new issue of a magazine by skimming the editorial that month to see, if perhaps, another change was coming. Each magazine gave me a few nervous moments, until I saw that things were continuing as normal. But a few days ago, as I turned to the editorial in the September 2019 issue of Scientific American, I quickly discovered that Mariette was leaving, and the September issue would be her last. She’d been the editor for a decade, and I liked the general direction of the magazine during that time. Indeed, if I am being completely honest here, I was just getting used to her as editor. As I said, I am a creature of habit.

Well, now a new editor will take over, and inevitably there will be changes, and I will wonder about those changes until they are a settled thing, and I have another decade to get used to them.

I suppose this isn’t much different from editorial changes from the writers’ perspective. I sold a story to Stan Schmidt at Analog just a few years before he retired as editor of the magazine after 33 years. When Trevor Quachri took over, I was nervous. But I ended up selling him another story, and two editorial so that worked out in the long run.

Then, too, I suppose the angst I feel at a new editor is similar to when I get a new boss. I’ve been with my company for 25 years as of next month, and I have probably had 10 or 12 bosses during that time. Each time, it is a little unsettling.

As it happens, I think the September 2019 issue of Scientific American looks particularly good (I’ve only had a chance to read one article so far). It certainly sets the bar high for whoever takes over. I think that is a good thing. As with most jobs, an editor should try to leave things better than she found them. I think Mariette DiChristina did just that.

Dear Scientific American, Left hand, meet right hand

I get that third-party vendors of digital magazines like Zinio may not share subscription information with the source magazine in question. So when I subscribed to New Scientist through Zinio and I kept getting renewal messages from New Scientist, it kind of made sense, in a bizarro-world kind of way. New Scientist simply didn’t have any way of knowing that I was still a subscriber through Zinio.

But Scientific American is another story. I love Scientific American and have been a subscriber for 15+ years now. Recently, I let my paper subscription lapse and replaced it with a digital subscription. The digital subscription is not through Zinio, but through Scientific American‘s website. You’d think all of this would be associated and recorded in the same database, but I keep getting e-mail from Scientific American with urgent warnings that my subscription has lapsed and I am going to miss out on vital scientific reporting, to say nothing of great savings on my subscription.

Wrong. I am not missing out on anything. I have the latest issues, all of them. I got them using my subscription to the digital (PDF) version of Scientific American, to which I subscribed through the Scientific American website. Why can’t their subscription department figure this out and stop pestering me? You’d think that a magazine that reports on science and technology–including articles on information technology–would have a clue and get their act together.

Come on, folks, you can do better than this. After all, you are Scientific American for crying out loud!

Goodbye, paper edition of Scientific American, hello digital

I think I’ve had an unbroken subscription to Scientific American for the last 15 years or so. This week, I gave up my paper subscription. I usually purchased my subscription for 3 years at a time, but the latest round was due to expire in June or July, I think. I’d started getting the reminder notices, telling me to renew my subscription. Well, after my experiment in January, seeing how the magazine looked in the digital edition on my iPad, I decided not to renew the paper edition and instead, subscribe to the digital edition.

While the digital subscription is about $5 more each year, there are three big advantages:

  1. I get each month’s issue a week before it hits the newsstands.
  2. I can read the issue on my iPad.
  3. I have access to the entire digital archive of the magazine going back to 1993.

That latter item is huge. I’ve already played around with it. I can access a PDF copy of about 200 issues of the magazine. I can download either the entire issue in PDF format, or just the article I happen to be interested in. Now, when reading a current article that refers to an earlier article, I don’t have to wonder about it. If it appeared in a post-1992 issue, I can get it and read it.

Of course, there is also the usual benefit of being able to search within the issues, to say nothing of not having stacks of magazines cluttering my office.

The only magazine I still receive in paper form is Time and I also get that in digital. I’d give up the paper version there, too, but Time does not provide an option for that. To receive the digital version, you must also get the paper version. Maybe one day they will figure this out, too.

It’s official: I want an iPad


When iPad’s first came out, I didn’t see a compelling reason to get one. After all, I have an iMac and a MacBook and an iPhone, to say nothing of a Kindle, and those seem to do well to make up for any lack I might experience. But in the back of my mind, I always told myself that if New Scientist ever became available on the iPad, that would push me over.

Well, I saw in a recent issue of New Scientist that it was now available on the iPad through Zinio app.

Scientific American has a digital edition, and I already subscribe to Analog and Asimov’s on the Kindle (and the print editions, as well). With New Scientist available on the iPad, I could read all of my subscriptions in electronic format on a single device. (My subscriptions to InterGalactic Medicine Show and Apex Magazine are already electronic.)

Yes, you can get New Scientist on the iPhone through Zinio but the screen size simply doesn’t do it justice. And besides, the fact is it makes a good excuse to get an iPad.

I don’t think I’ll be getting one anytime soon, but it’s nice to know that when I’m ready to get one, it will aid in my efforts to go paperless.

Scientifc American gets a face-lift

Scientific American October 2010

Beginning with the October 2010 issue, Scientific American has gotten yet another face lift. I’ve been a subscriber to SCIAM for 15 years and I read each issue cover-to-cover, and in doing so, I’ve become very comfortable with the look and feel, and where things fall in the magazine. So I was ready to complain about any change just for the sake of the change.

But overall, I’m pleased with the result.

In part that’s because the changes they have made seem to mirror the aesthetics of New Scientist, which is my favorite science magazine.  Looking at a page in the first half of SCIAM, it looks remarkably similar in formatting and over all feel to a page in New Scientist.  This may not be the most original move on the part of the designers of the magazine, but it works from a usability standpoint.  For one thing, the non-feature articles almost never span more than a page now.  I think some of the headline news is more condensed than it was before and I like the fact that I can read these pieces in their entirety without flipping a page.  (There are one or two exceptions.)

The magazine has also reorganized the way it presents articles, columns and features.  In this, I generally don’t like the change.  I was used to a very specific rhythm whereby you started with the editorial and letters, followed by the famous 50-100-150 years ago page, and then by the news. That was followed by all of the opinion columns, and then the features, and finally, reviews.  Beginning in October that all changes.  You get the editorial and letters, and then 2 short opinion pieces.  This is followed by the “Advances” section which replaces the science news.  Then an opinion piece on health, followed by a new column, “TechnoFiles” which is an opinion piece by David Pogue.  Then you are into the features which is followed by reviews.  Michael Shermer‘s excellent “Skeptic” column has been moved way to the back (page 98 in the October issue), and Steve Mirky‘s “Antigravity” column follows that, no longer being the last item in the magazine.  That’s too bad because it was always nice finishing off an intense reading of science with a laugh.  Inexplicably, the 50, 100, 150 Years Ago page is now the second to last item (page 102 in the October issue), and the final page of the magazine is a new item called “Graphic Science” which illustrates something of interest using fancy charts and graphs.

There are other minor changes, the most notable to me being the use of Wall Street Journal style illustrations for feature and column authors instead of the photographs they used to use. I’m not sure why one is better than the other, and therefore question the purpose of this change.

I liked when all of the opinion pieces were collected together before the features, but I suppose the magazine designers can’t please everyone.  I cannot for the life of my understand why the moved the 50, 100, 150 years ago column from the front to the back.  I do, however, like the new format of the features themselves.  They are all 2-column and make much better and more efficient use of page space, in my opinion.

My last grip is about the binding.  Beginning with this issue, the magazine goes from a rounded binding to a flat one, presumably because the flat one allows information to be printed on the edge.  It is a mistake.  It may not seem like a big deal, but as a regular reader, I like to fold the magazine in such a way the I am only looking at one page at a time.  The round binding made that easy, the flat binding makes it virtually impossible.  From a usability standpoint, it is frustratingly annoying.

I finished the October issue yesterday and I’m halfway through November.  I imagine by the time I’m through November I’ll be more-or-less used to the new format, and then, just when I’ve finally become completely comfortable with it, it will change again.

50, 100 & 150

I’ve been reading SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN regularly since around 1995–about 15 years.  This is long enough to remember when the "50, 100 & 150 years ago" department referred to, say 1945, 1895 and 1845 respectively.  It is therefore a little unsettling to see the column appear today with "March 1960" (50 years ago), "March 1910" (100 years ago) and "March 1860" (150 years ago).  It is,in fact, another sign how just how quickly time flies…