For those not in the know, Locus Magazine is, as its subtitle suggests, The Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field. It is the pre-eminent magazine covering the genre publishing industry, prose fiction, and conventions, featuring reviews, news, interviews, publishing data, and more.
With the January 2011 issue, which will focus on SF in the digital age, the magazine will publish its first digital edition. The digital editions will be available in pdf format at first. Epub and Kindle editions might come in the future. This is good news to be sure.
Like many traditional publishers, however, I don’t think the staff at Locus have quite grasped where things are headed in the digital age, or even what is cutting edge right now. Pdfs, and even epub and Kindle editions, are simply not enough. It’s old school even, at least for organizations that entered the digital age early (such as the visionary Ludwig von Mises Institute, which publishes all its print, audio, and video media online — for free, since it’s an educational organization).
What Locus needs to do is have a webapp (such as for the Chrome Web Store) as well as Android and iOS apps developed — really nice ones, like I’ve heard the New York Times, Huffington Post, and The Economist’s are.
The initial pricing for Locus’s digital editions also strikes me as too high. $5.50 for a single issue? Come on. That’s pushing it for entire books as far as I and, I think, many others are concerned. You can get a discount off of the “newsstand” price if you subscribe for 6 months or 1 year, of course. But a 1-year digital subscription is still $48. That’s only $12 off the also pricey 1-year print subscription. If you’re already a print subscriber, you can add digital editions for “only” $1 more per issue, for a total of $72 per year. But $60 per year for the print edition is already pretty steep in my opinion. I’m not sure why it costs so much, particularly for a magazine that is mostly black and white, but the prices really need to come down, especially for the digital editions. People don’t like to spend as much for digital versions of media they consume. A small discount over the print version just won’t cut it in the long-run.
There’s no mention of DRM though, so that’s a plus.