In this geeky world I’m in, there are few magazines as spot-on and influential as Wired Magazine. It’s one of the magazines I keep around for years after publication.
Wired was important not just because it was the first magazine to make the computer world seem hip; it also trained its eye on the implications of the onrushing new technology, not merely on appraising the newest machines and trendiest gadgets.
I typically buy a copy of Wired when I’m in an airport, because they don’t carry it in most Belgian bookshops. So this year I thought: let’s just pretend we’re wealthy and buy a year’s subscription. I clicked the ‘Subscribe’ button on the site, and lo and behold, a year’s subscription only costs $10! (That’s about the same price as I pay over here for a single issue.) Great! Oh wait, that’s for US only. Let’s check ‘International’: for Europeans it’s a hefty $70.
Even if $70 is not the end of the world, why on earth would I pay a 600% premium for just transport? This made me think of the Brewster Kahle speech on NotCon 2004. The founder of the Internet Archive has set up the Internet BookMobile, a vehicle with all technology on board (Internet, color printer, binding machine) to print books on demand. His claim is that it costs $1 to print a black/white book with a color cover, while it costs $2 for a library to handle the lending of a book. Printing a self-made book (uploaded in PDF format) through the CafePress site costs $4.50. Kinkos charges a bit more ($5.95). So if one had to print 1000 copies for Western Europe and ship them from France, Germany or Poland (cheaper labor), this should be possible for less than $5 per copy?
So here’s my question: given the state-of-the-art in on-demand printing technology, isn’t it possible to have US-based magazines digitally transferred to a European location and printed closer to the reader? So I could subscribe to Wired, Fast Company ($56 for Europe instead of $12), Business 2.0, Rolling Stone ($65 for Europe instead of $13), Time Magazine, Newsweek (70€ instead of $30 per year) and – what the heck – Playboy ($45 for Europe instead of $12) for what one Wired subscription costs now?