Electronic Evolution

by Steve Ciarcia

wish that everything could stay the same, but we all know it can't. When I look at my picture on this page I have to admit that my hair is a whole lot grayer now than when that picture was taken seven years ago. The other immutable fact is that a copy of Circuit Cellar costs about 2? times more to produce and ship today than it did back then. The increased costs aren't just paper and postage. We have a larger staff these days, pay a lot more to our authors, and have to deal with a lot more of the competitive realities of being a leader in what we do.

Normally, when a company experiences increased costs the remedy is to either reduce services or raise prices. There was a period of time this fall when we recognized the inevitability of the situation and caved in to business reality. The domestic price of a Circuit Cellar subscription, originally set at $21.95 in 1993, was scheduled to go up to $24.95 with this issue. Foreign rates, already a wallet-killing $50 per year, would have gone up as well. Shortly before it was to be cast in print, however, I decided to poll the readers about a change in magazine delivery that might solve everyone's problem.

A couple of months ago we posted a poll on the Circuit Cellar web site about offering the magazine in PDF format. Let me clarify that further by saying that this PDF magazine would be 100% equivalent to the print magazine. It would be in color, contain all the advertising, and be printable. Basically, all I was asking was if you would subscribe to a PDF version of Circuit Cellar.

About 500 people answered the poll in the short time it was posted. The results demonstrated an intense desire among the web-connected, Internet-savvy Circuit Cellar audience. 70% of the respondents answered that they would be interested. 71% of foreign non-subscribers would go for it right away and finally, a phenomenal 90% of our present foreign subscribers were interested, too. About the only concerns expressed were that the print magazine continued to be available and that the PDF subscription should cost less than print.

Well, I wish all my publishing decisions were this easy. Starting this month, Circuit Cellar magazine is available in PDF format. Of course, easily said isn't necessarily easily or inexpensively done. For everyone who thinks everything posted on the Internet should be free, forget it. You get what you pay for. We are publishing our new electronic edition to reduce the cost burden on the print magazine and maintain both our circulation and quality. A magazine has considerable overhead besides paper and postage. These expenses remain regardless of whatever delivery means we use. To reduce the cost-burden being solely on the print magazine, I've determined to spread these costs across our entire circulation base. It keeps the print subscription at $21.95, offers a reduced price ($15 per year) to electronic edition subscribers, and gives foreign readers an option that is less that $50 per year.

The infrastructure for doing an Electronic edition properly is also costly. If our projections are anywhere near correct, we will be dealing with tens of thousands of downloads very quickly. Systems quickly crash when dozens of readers around the world attempt to download a 6-MB file at the same time. This concern is even more acute if they are all DSL or cable modem users. Rather than limiting ourselves to a modest connection like a T1 line (1.5 Mbps), for the actual downloads Circuit Cellar is contracting for a high-bandwidth OC-3 connection through two different Tier-1 backbone service providers. At 155 Mbps, this OC-3 is equivalent to one hundred T1 lines! We trust that this will be enough bandwidth for even peak times.

Finally, I want to assure everyone that the print magazine is not going away and we aren't just moving online. The electronic edition is the most effective way for us to regulate costs and expand Circuit Cellar into the ever-increasing global marketplace. This is merely part and parcel to the continuing evolution of Circuit Cellar. I invite you all to check it out at

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