Carnegie Magazine Online

What is the point of turning your favorite magazine into an electronic database?

Why would anyone want to take the familiar magazine, richly printed on glossy paper and endowed with colorful pictures, cheap to own, and comfortably at home on your coffeetable, bookcase, or in your car or coat pocket, and turn it into an electronic database accessible only by high-end computer equipment and a high-speed network connection? Why would you want to give up those enticing two-page magazine spreads for a one-screen format that hides the rest of the magazine? Why would you trade the delight of casually flipping through pages of eye-catching photographs and illustrations, for the tedium of watching most computers strain to digitize images one by one?

There are several reasons.

First, an electronic magazine can reach a different audience than the printed version. All its information is now an "online database" to be selected and explored more deliberately than before. And once online, as Carnegie Magazine is (as of January/February 1996), people all over the globe searching the Internet for a particular topic may eventually find Carnegie Magazine and its data on their topic. The January/February issue had an article about Carnegie Science Center's innovative planetarium program Journey into the Living Cell that can be read free of charge anywhere in the world by science center professionals, biology teachers, or anyone interested in popular explanations of cell biology. That is an important advantage in communications.

Second, an electronic magazine is edited differently. Some online magazines summarize stories briefly for easy reference-then direct you to the print version for full coverage. The electronic magazine can also have text features unavailable in print, such as the hypertext or hotword feature. If you find a word highlighted in a different color you can click your mouse pointer on it and obtain more information about it. In reading a news article about Tibet, for example, you might find the hypertext (different colored) word Tibet and by clicking on it suddenly have before you an encyclopedia reference, or a map from an atlas, that tells you everything you need to know about the country. If you are reading about the new planetarium show at the Carnegie Science Center, you can click on the hypertext name of the Center, and go directly to its electronic home page for more information about it.

While the familiar printed magazine is linear and satisfyingly two-dimensional in its delivery of information page after page, backwards or forwards, an online magazine is usefully three-dimensional, sending you deeper into the subject through channels that exist only in cyberspace. Consider the book reviews in The Atlantic Monthly: they give you a short critical appraisal of the book, and then allow you to click on the table of contents and read the first chapter of the book itself so you can taste for yourself the quality of its prose. Smithsonian Magazine is just part of the much larger Smithsonian Institution home page, and you can go quickly from the magazine to the institution even to the extent of seeing before your eyes the Secretary of the Smithsonian himself, and hearing him give a speech. Listening to a sound clip requires a multimedia accessory for your computer but this feature is rapidly becoming standardized.

While some magazines listed on Web pages are no more than advertisements for the print version, with information about how to subscribe electronically, other periodicals may never make it into print at all (unless you print the pages out on your own printer). A poetry anthology can be published periodically by enterprising poets, for example, but will exist only in cyberspace.

When you consider that such computer-only magazines require no trees to be cut down and converted into wood pulp; that no ink has to be manufactured, applied and the remainder disposed of; no fuel supplied for trucks, trains and airplanes to transport this information to you; and that no landfills are needed to bury the old issues; or recycling programs created to reuse manufactured paper you have to admit that environmental correctness favors the online magazine. The energy required to send you an electronic magazine is miniscule compared to the energy needed to deliver a printed version.

Printed magazines have been declared by media prophets to be on the path to extinction since the advent of radio and television. And yet the printed magazine has flourished by adapting to the marketplace and finding a niche that cannot be replaced. All those printed magazines about electronic communications also make their own point about the value of print.

How does a periodical and specifically Carnegie Magazineactually go online?

Where does Carnegie Magazine exist within the electronic delivery system of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh? Mark Petruzzini, our electronic editor, tells you in this issue.

-R. Jay Gangewere