The April 2010 issue will be the final issue of Jim Baen's Universe, according to a recent message from editor Eric Flint on their site. This is highly disappointing to me not just because it amounts to the business failure of a professional sf magazine, but also because this one was the big example to which I often pointed as the possible future of short fiction periodicals. People who have read my remarks on this in the past know well that I am convinced that there needs to be a business model for fiction mags where the readers pay something for content. I have based the existence of M-Brane on this conviction.
You are Here: Home > Baen's UNIVERSE closing
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
But, again, the model fails and the tiny sf-reading-world insists on free content. Let's compare Universe to another highly-regarded web-only, no-paper-version zine, Clarkesworld. The former has a paid subscription scheme--and not exactly cheap either. Plus they offered all kinds of ways to give still more money in various tiers of patronage. The latter, on the other hand, is entirely free. So Clarkesworld is much better, right? Because it's free? Well, it depends what you want out of a "magazine." If you were paying money for it, I suspect you'd be happier with Universe because it offers a LOT of content, like you would expect out of "real" magazine. Clarkesworld, while offering top-notch content, has relatively little of it and what is there is stuff that is in compliance with rigid word-count rules. Why would there be word-count limits on a web page? Maybe because they pay an impressively high word rate to writers with no readily apparent source of support for it save for donations. If you are an editor and have to spend four hundred bucks for a story with no one paying one thin dime to read it, then you are not going to be able to buy very many of those stories.
I have no idea how the free zines that also pay their writers survive, and it's none of my business. I do know, however, how Universe failed (not because of my great insight but because Flint explains it on their site). It all came down to inadequate reader support in the form of paid subscriptions. It seems very unfair, considering that the "Big Three" print digests which are not necessarily better zines than Universe, continue to somehow survive under the old dead model while the online free-for-all thrives on the other side, but right in the middle there seems to be no way to be viable as both paying and paid-for. I'm sad that Universe will go away next year just because it can't take in enough money. If M-Brane ever goes away, that will probably be the reason for it, too.Related Articles :
Labels: other magazines