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MatPlus.Net Forum General End of hard copy?
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(1) Posted by Neal Turner [Monday, Apr 28, 2014 11:31]

End of hard copy?

In the past we've had the model of publishing problem magazines in which subscribers pay and a magazine is printed and sent out by post.
As the magazines are produced by amateurs in their spare time, the only real expenses are printing and postage paid for by the subscriptions - but nowadays why do we need printing and postage?

There are signs of change:
- we have one or two internet only magazines
- some are only sending hard copy to subscribers and pdf files to contributors
- some are releasing pdf for all
- then we have Julia's Fairies - a real game-changer in my opinion

But still the leading publications are sticking with the traditional model - I was wondering how long this can go on for.
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(2) Posted by Hauke Reddmann [Monday, Apr 28, 2014 14:00]

But please take in account that there are some fundamental
differences. Problem mags are NOT made for profit, and
thus no Dotcom upstart is likely to try to squeeze them
out of business. Likewise, I still wait to see crappy ads
in MPF, Julias Fairies or whatnot - selling crap to dimwits
seems to me an integral part of the Internet sale model.

That said, did you know that solving problems by
Hauke Reddmann increases your p%))$§/'*&CARRIER LOST
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(3) Posted by Eugene Rosner [Tuesday, Apr 29, 2014 02:50]

And I will probably say the following until I'm blue in the face. I will never get a Kindle. I like the feel and portability of a book. That I can put it on my nightstand, pick it up and read to my heart's content until I fall asleep cannot be matched by any online read. Similarly when a problem magazine arrives in the mail, it is a red letter day. Smiles abound and when I take it out of its mailer there is always the great feeling of anticipation.

Support your printed magazines everyone!
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(4) Posted by Kevin Begley [Tuesday, Apr 29, 2014 03:22]; edited by Kevin Begley [14-04-29]


Long, long ago, I realized that online journals were strong with the force.
Then, the print empire struck back (the post Death Star era experienced a disturbance in said force).
I'm still waiting for the return of the online jedi.

The drawbacks with print are as numerous as they are obvious:
1) International postage costs are needlessly expensive; while mail remains excessively slow, and unreliable.
2) Paper costs too much (both in money and in trees), as does ink (both in purchase and in disposal).
- the typically low quality paper offends the human eye (and quickly degrades with time),
- the typically tiny font sizes tend to require the aid of a magnifying lens,
- extreme space constraints often necessitate the abandonment of important information (including relevant special case fairy rules),
- cutbacks on ink (especially noticeable in poorly printed dark squares) often results in unreadable diagrams
3) Print provides no linkage
- no easy access to additional awards earned (which are rarely mentioned),
- no easy access to historical context of thematic content (nor even the original published version),
- no easy access to the biographical information about the author(s),
- no easy access to related problems,
- no easy access to the correct resolution for an ambiguous concert of fairy rules,
4) Print provides no means to step through solution(s)
5) Print provides no means to manipulate data (e.g., no correction, no validation)
6) Print provides no ease of translation (including notation, non-latin names, names of fairy elements, rules, comments, etc)
7) Print provides no mechanism for filtering/searching content within numerous volumes
8) Print has no means to reach out to the wider world (online journals can be had with a web-search, and a click)
9) Most importantly, print holds no appeal for the next generation of problemists!
... etc ...

Beyond that, electronic problem journals might also bring more sponsorship (read: marginal advertising -- gasp, Ewoks!) -- whereas print could never manage the challenge of facilitating sponsorship on an international scale.
The possibility to eliminate subscription fees promises to significantly expand the audience!
And, a steady revenue stream could help stabilize problem magazines.

Meesa thinks sponsorship can be tolerated, providing it lacks the capacity for any corrupting influence (promotion of chess is not the same as sponsorship of politicians, and news outlets -- unless you worry that a mandatory consumption of Red Bull might have played a significant part in GM Hikaru Nakamura's recent failure to consolidate a promising position against World Champion Magnus Carlsen).
aside: I will concede that the Chess Variant Pages may provide an exceptional historical case of grossly undermined integrity, given the glowing reviews which followed sponsorship by Omega Chess (a ghastly commercial caper); however, such failings could be entirely avoided, by simply refusing dependent sponsors.

The irony is that it is the internet journals -- and not pulp chess problems! -- which have been going out of business.

I believe Christian Poisson's 'Problemesis' was the first online problem journal (unless anticipated by online tournaments in Juraj Lörinc's 'Chess Composition Microweb' -- both preceded my interest in the matter).
Many have followed: Problem Online, Eteroscacco, and yes, even Mat Plus (once both online, and print), to name a few.
In many ways, Ján Golha's webpage (with an almost comprehensive list of tournaments) offered more than any singular journal.
Similarly The Retrograde Analysis Corner once provided an almost comprehensive coverage of Retrograde problems.

Of all these sites mentioned, only Chess Composition Microweb endures today; the rest are dormant, after a relatively short life (and most have awards still pending -- I know, because I made a conscious effort to help support online journals).
If ever you wanted to undermine support for the future, problem chess has conspired to provide the ideal model (repeatedly enlist supporters, then rapidly abandon all who worked to bring success to the needlessly closed factory; never print their final paycheck).

Today, there is a small new crop of online problem sites; but none show great promise for enduring success.
Most are devoted to a highly specific aspect of composition; and, many demonstrate a peculiar affection for producing flashy, unrelated images -- as if to callously sell problem clicks to an audience captivated by an hallucinogenic rave.
One fool's market-share strategy, is another crumbling world's zombie appeasement plan.

Julia's Fairies is probably the clear best of the new crop, but it requires a bad memory to pretend that this has proven a "game-changer" (except that we all owe Julia enormous thanks for bringing fresh appeal to an extremely under-represented gender).
If there is a revolutionary idea looming, it may be concealed by a more humble delivery system (see the emails shared by Chris Feather) -- though its benefit is limited to reduced print and postage costs, already many Print Journals have followed suit.

The failure of online problem sites, in general, is rooted in the need to develop a considerable array of tools.
The ideal problem site requires a formidable database (containing problems, players & composers, titles, thematic formulations, fairy pieces & conditions, originals, awards, etc), a solving tool (preferably with some thematic detection), translation options, etc etc etc.
None of these necessary tools are easily developed, given an environment which stubbornly refuses to find agreement for the most fundamental definitions -- you almost need to start your own problem federation, to overcome the constant chorus of biased nonsense!

An enormous undertaking is required to get off the ground, and increasing energy is required to maintain flight; it is an easy calculus to figure that problem chess is not worth it.
The failure rate is enormous, primarily due to this lack of reward, and/or the collective unwillingness to establish the standards necessary to build a community project.
Either we tolerate profit, or we volunteer to help establish a community resource (everybody else represents a squeaky obstacle with an immunity to oil).

What hope has this community to conquer their petty dogma, for the greater good of an art they claim to love?
Problemists are notorious for preferring absurd disagreements (few can agree on the most fundamental matters!).

Problem chess still suffers an abundance of unwilling old-timers (from the worst generation of environmental stewards).
Yes, Eugene, I'm talking about those who would refuse Kindle -- nothing personal, friend; but please reconsider. Search your feelings -- you know it's true that Kindle enhances literary comprehension, in a way that benefits the environment (to deny this is to be a party to your own theft).
Simply consider the obscene irony of denying the benefits of electronic data, here on Milan's forum!

The clear future of problem chess is presently inhibited by an irresponsible generation, who seem mesmerized with fear (not a fear of the future per se, but a morbid, gripping fear that they will lose control of their place in it).
The longer we remain stifled (by our profound lack of community resolve), the more likely we are destined to lose the next generation (blindness is the power of the dark side).
Before it's too late, imagine having lost entirely, in the end, the very thing this generation has conspired desperately to control: your future!
Then you will truly understand the tragic path of Anakin Skywalker.

Online journals are one small step into the future; the giant leap forward is to freely provide all Albums online.
Commercial sponsorship for WFCC would not only help restore integrity (by avoiding the conflict of a marketing campaign tailored toward their own set of Album inductees), it would simultaneously provide a vehicle for much needed financial independence (over FIDE, which has often demonstrated a corrupting influence).
Best of all, it would help to grow a larger audience, for your future.

Despite the repeated failure of online journals, print journals have expanded their online presence (the tiniest hedge, but in the right direction).

Why would any problemist insist that this community remain stuck on Tatooine?
Technology is your lightsaber -- use the force, Luke.

ps: when the moment is right, I solve problems composed by Hauke Reddmann.
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(5) Posted by Hauke Reddmann [Tuesday, Apr 29, 2014 12:44]

@Kevin: You mention tools...I mean the Internet tools
of course :-) Yes, this IS a very important advantage of
any electronic version. My SCHWALBE collection already
piles up to the ceiling, and it's always a minor nuisance to
dig up something from the past. I would give an arm and a
leg for a *complete* (as far as such a thing can be complete)
thematically indexed 2# collection. (It's in the
works, but I don't expect it to come out in my lifetime.)

@Eugene: I don't have a Kindle either :-) I estimate that
at >10 pages I refuse to read anything on my browser (and
just quickscan).

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(6) Posted by seetharaman kalyan [Tuesday, Apr 29, 2014 20:40]

I am also an old timer perhaps who likes to read a print magazine or book. I can tolerate most of the disadvantages of the print magazine. What is distressing is to wait for more than six months to know what the solvers or other composers think of my problem.
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(7) Posted by Sven Hendrik Lossin [Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014 08:34]

And I wish to have all my chess books as an ebook. That would certainly help. Some books are very good for reading on a tablet especially when they are about solving OTB combinations or easy problems for which you do not need a board. There are also some books with one page lessons like "101 attacking ideas in chess" by Gallagher which are also comfortable for mobile devices. My way home from work is about 40 minutes and includes some train changing so that these short lessons are optimal.

Btw: Problem chess magazines are somewhat lightweight books are not.
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(8) Posted by Geir Sune Tallaksen Østmoe [Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014 19:45]; edited by Geir Sune Tallaksen Østmoe [14-04-30]

And I am an old-fashioned 29-year-old who clearly favor printed books/magazines over electronic ones. Just like Sven, I like to read on my way to work, but not in electronic form! I do realize the advantages of online resources, but I simply concentrate better when I read in print, whether it is a chess book, a novel, or a document at work. Clearly, people have different tastes, but even among people of my age, I have the impression that many people still prefer print.

To me, there is also something nostalgic about holding an old book or magazine, which I don't think would be the same for an online resource. Many years ago, a guy at the chess club gave me his collection of old chess magazines, and I was ecstatic to read them. Maybe some day my children and grandchildren will feel the same about the magazines produced today. I don't think it would be quite the same to find an old online magazine with the same contents.
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MatPlus.Net Forum General End of hard copy?