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#1 Michael Rapp

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 12:46 PM

Last night, I had an enjoyable read through the December issue of S&T. I reflected on my history with the magazine and decided that I wanted to continue to subscribe and to see the magazine thrive.

I started with the magazine in a humourous youthful way. Already having an interest in astronomy at a young age, my family and I were at a video rental store in June of 1986. I was 10 years old. I was looking through the magazine racks and spied the issue of S&T there and begged my parents to buy it for me, which they did.

The star chart in the middle (then, done by George Lovi) allowed me to map the few stars I could see in Houston to the charts. This was awesome. It wasn't long before I begged for a subscription. My dad declined, believing that the content in S&T was too advanced for me -- he was an S&T subscriber in his youth -- and instead got me a subscription to Astronomy Magazine.

Now, in many respects my dad was correct. S&T's articles and features were a bit over my head. But I was determined to meet the challenge. I wanted to get the magazine that was "too advanced for me." So I went out and did my best to get awesome grades in school and after a year or so, got my subscription to S&T. :D

I remember keenly one of the arguments I used to get my subscription. S&T always printed the RA and Dec of objects in their articles; Astronomy did not. I remember arguing that S&T woud help me find stuff better. (Well, maybe.)

So, I've had a continuous subscription (more or less) since the late 1980s and I have a certain strong nostalgia for the publication (and almost...loyalty, if you will). I've seen the publication go through a few editor changes, paper changes, and layout changes. I've watched the publication go from the timely source for amateur astronomy information to -- through the necessities of publication -- being three months late. I've watched them silently struggle with the exponential rising of printing costs and how to make a publication appeal to people in such a broad hobby with different interests and experience levels in this internet age.

Guys, you're still here when many publications have long since folded. Congratulations. That is not easy.

Before this gets too long, here are the things I think S&T does well:

  • Publishing issues that have something for everyone in astronomy, regardless of interest or experience level. This is not easy and I could not do better myself.
  • Excellent editing, especially of the features. Your articles flow very well. Better than most "amateur" stuff on the web.
  • Visual appealing publication. (After all, it is a magazine.)
  • Articles on a variety of objects to observe, written by experienced observers

If I were to list some things I wish S&T would do better, here is what they are:

  • More sketches in the observing articles. (Of course, this represents the viewpoint of a visual observer.)
  • More "to see more, view this video on our web site." Harness the convergence of media better. This alone can help you fight the constraints of a limited number of pages. Many of your articles feel as if they have been edited down substantially in order to fit in the space.
  • Speaking of the web site, it needs to be redesigned. It has a very old and clunky feel. The use of a serif font for the text alone makes it look very dated.

I suppose I can't end without a few words about print vs. digital. I read -- and enjoy -- both editions, but in different contexts. I primarily enjoy reading the print edition as I can read it in quiet with no electronics around or even the weight of an iPad in my hand. (Does this make me "old" at the age of 36?) However, I also enjoy the digital edition, which I can easily read on the go or at an airport on my iPad.

The digital edition, obviously, is a clone of the print edition. That is, the length of the print edition constrains the length of the digital edition. Would I be happier if the print edition was discontinued in order to gain a longer digital edition, perhaps with some more advanced or specialized articles? I am on the fence on that one. I do like print. (There is also a practical aspect, S&T editors only have so much time in the day to edit articles!)

In any case, those are my thoughts on a nearly constant companion in my astronomy hobby.

#2 LivingNDixie

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 01:00 PM

I had my first subscription to Sky and Telescope in 7th or 8th grade, however the first magazine for me was Astronomy. I remember it being the February or March issue in 1990 or 1991. There was an article about viewing Jupiter for a complete day (Jupiter day) by staying up all night. It too was bought at a newsstand.

Today though I prefer Sky and Telescope, but if in a bookstore I will still take a look at Astronomy.

#3 DavidNealMinnick

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 05:20 PM

When my boyhood interest in astronomy was rekindled at age 41, it was the Dec 97 bookstore issue of S&T that did it. I then subscribed to it, and Astronomy, but only S&T still finds its way to my mailbox each month. I hope it always will, because I use it at the eyepiece, and have no interest in submitting to an all-digital universe.

I do lament the loss of pages-per-issue, however.

#4 helpwanted

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 07:53 PM

my first issue of Sky & Tele was Oct of 1978... boy do i feel old all of a sudden!

#5 Michael Rapp

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 10:27 PM

Well, I went looking for my first issue this afternoon and I found it. However, my memory seems not to be as good as I thought it was! The issue was not June of 1986, but rather April of 1988. So I was twelve years old and not ten.

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#6 Michael Rapp

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 10:28 PM

And those memories of the George Lovi charts.

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#7 bumm

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 11:10 PM

I used to check out issues of S&T from the library in Lincoln, NE when I was in college. My wife got me a subscription in '75, and I've kept it going ever since. (I can remember her once ridiculing me, looking at a cover and saying, "Ooooh, the "mysterious egg nebula in Cygnus.") I'd suspect that S&T has more long term subscribers than most magazines. For a while, I subscribed to Astronomy Magazine, and I liked Deep Sky until it folded. The internet is a great source of astronomical info, but S&T gives me a chance to have a permanent archive... fun to look back on.
I've got all my issues in the old folder holders, and later, slip covers. The new slip covers are so blasted EXPEN$IVE though, that I've got the last 4 or 5 years just stacked up. I'll probably make my own slipcovers one of these days.
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#8 opticsguy

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Posted 02 December 2012 - 11:41 PM

For you young boys, i started my subscription in 1968. Now who feels old??

#9 bumm

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 12:39 AM

For you young boys, i started my subscription in 1968. Now who feels old??


HOLY COW! Did they have things like ROPE back then?
(actually, that's when I graduated from high school...)
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#10 LB16europe

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 09:53 AM

The digital edition, obviously, is a clone of the print edition. That is, the length of the print edition constrains the length of the digital edition. Would I be happier if the print edition was discontinued in order to gain a longer digital edition, perhaps with some more advanced or specialized articles?

Great idea there! I also get the feeling when reading S&T that some of the feature articles seem "overedited" and a bit shoehorned in the available space. I would love to see a longer magazine with more text even if it was only in digital format.

#11 Rick Woods

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 11:23 AM

The digital edition, obviously, is a clone of the print edition. That is, the length of the print edition constrains the length of the digital edition. Would I be happier if the print edition was discontinued in order to gain a longer digital edition, perhaps with some more advanced or specialized articles?

Great idea there! I also get the feeling when reading S&T that some of the feature articles seem "overedited" and a bit shoehorned in the available space. I would love to see a longer magazine with more text even if it was only in digital format.


I know that several S&T folks read these threads, so I'll go on record once again as saying that if the magazine were to go strictly digital, that would signal the end of my subscription.

That's also another good reason to collect a private library. When printed books become unavailable, I'll still have plenty to read! :D

#12 Traveler

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 12:05 PM

+1!!!

Also: the january 2013 issue is top notch.

#13 Tom Laskowski

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 04:43 PM

my first issue of Sky & Tele was Oct of 1978... boy do i feel old all of a sudden!


I started with S&T way back in January 1973 and have been a continuous subscriber since. I still have every print issue I ever received. Surprisingly they don't take up very much room. I would receive a subscription every year as my Christmas gift for about the first 5 years I got it. It has definitely gone through some changes over the years but I can not imagine ever not having a subscription to it.

#14 wky46

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 05:12 PM


Also: the january 2013 issue is top notch.

+1 Alot of great information packed in there. I picked my first copy up after a few years hiatus and couldn't be more pleased.

#15 Ira

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 06:08 PM

Ok, move over. Here comes the real Old Man. :gramps: I started my subscription while still in high school in 1963. That said, I am only 65 years young. I have been an off and on subscriber since then, currently "on". If you think it was over your head in the '80s you should have been reading in the '60s. Seriously scientific articles written by some of the greatest astronomers and cosmologists of the day. The ATM section alone was filled with complex equations and all kinds of stuff you won't have seen in years. It has been been considerably dumbed down since those days, but what popular magazine hasn't?

Yes, the web site is clunky and I don't like the digital version much at all. I believe they out-source alot of this and the drop in quality shows. I also subscribe to the digital version of Astronomy but don't look at it much even tho I think it is better done that the S&T digital version. If it doesn't knock me on the head in the mail box and hang around my coffee table, I'm not likely to read it. So keep up the good work on the paper edition!

/Ira

#16 Rick Woods

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 07:42 PM

If you think it was over your head in the '80s you should have been reading in the '60s. Seriously scientific articles written by some of the greatest astronomers and cosmologists of the day.


That's actually true today, too. But I agree the text isn't nearly at the high level it was back then.

But don't take anyone's word for it - get that DVD set from S&T and see for yourself (not you Ira, you've already got them all), while it's still available. The early "The Sky" and "The Telescope" collections may already be gone, I don't see them advertised any more.
Man, don't let that collection get away from you, because eventually it will. A reference resource beyond value.

#17 PhilCo126

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 06:48 AM

Can each monthly issue be purchased online as a .pdf ... or do we have to wait until the DVD comes out ?

#18 BSJ

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 08:30 AM

Can each monthly issue be purchased online as a .pdf ... or do we have to wait until the DVD comes out ?


The digital edition can be saved/downloaded as a PDF. You just have to subscribe...

#19 PhilCo126

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 08:49 AM

Indeed, but it comes with the regular "print" subscription. Since 2012, most monthly magazines offer a digital subscription only (to avoid the rising postal costs worldwide)and that's what most readers are interested in... I've bought all the S&T DVDs and recycled kilos of paper.
So now I have to wait for the release of the 2012 & 2013 S&T DVDs... as the .pdf exist, S&T should consider a digital subscription only, especially for international subscribers!
:p

#20 Tony Flanders

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 08:53 AM

Can each monthly issue be purchased online as a .pdf ... or do we have to wait until the DVD comes out ?


Individual digital issues are available here -- though it looks as though they're not very up to date at the moment.

But if you expect to do this at all regularly, a subscription would save you a lot of money.

#21 PhilCo126

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 08:57 AM

Thanks Tony!
Browsing around I've found a Digital Subscription only for US $ 29.95 ... If someone takes such a digital subscription, will he/she get downloadable .pdf issues or just get access to online digital issues?
( I have all S&T in digital format between Nov 1941 and Dec 2011 = all that's made available by S&T on DVDs )

#22 Tony Flanders

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 09:10 AM

Thanks Tony!
Browsing around I've found a Digital Subscription only for US $ 29.95 ... If someone takes such a digital subscription, will he/she get downloadable .pdf issues or just get access to online digital issues?


You get access to all issues starting with your subscription date. Once you have access to an issue, one of your many options for reading it is to download it as a PDF.

#23 PhilCo126

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 12:08 PM

Superb... 100% satisfied new digital subscriber here :jump:

#24 Darren Bly

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 11:27 AM

Tony it looks as if your iPad app has an issue.

http://www.cloudynig...5558876/Main...

Thanks

#25 swalker

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 12:03 PM

Looking into it.






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