Linux Journal Goes 100% Digital

Introducing Linux Journal 2.0

We're going all-digital. That's the news. Starting with our next issue, #209, we're going off-rack and off-mailbox, but staying on-email and on-Web, where we can grow and improve. It's the only path open to us, but it's also a good one. Hang with me as I explain why. (See also Experience the New Linux Journal for details about the new format.)

Linux Journal was the brainchild of Phil Hughes in 1993. That's when he got it in his head that a free software magazine would be a good idea, and pulled together an email list of friends—including me—to talk about it. Then one day, out of the blue, Phil halted the proceedings and announced that he now saw The Future, and it was Linux.

At the time, Linux was invisible in the trade press. None of the magazines put out by the big three computer-industry publishers--Ziff-Davis, IDG and CMP--paid any attention to it. All their eyes were on name-brand computer and network companies, plus startups in spaces those companies (all of which were advertisers) defined. UNIX was still a war between variants sold by Novell, Silicon Graphics, IBM, Sun and others, plus the BSDs. Linux was at version 0.x, and of relatively little interest outside the kernel mailing list.

Phil saw UNIX for the mess it was, and he knew how Linux was going to solve it. So, when Linux 1.0 was released in March 1994, Linux Journal promptly followed. During the 17+ years since, Linux has proven Phil right, and it is now the standard operating system for everything from picture frames to set-top boxes, plus most of the Web. (Fun fact: even Microsoft's Bing search engine is mostly hosted on Linux, through Akamai.)

But while Linux continues to win at operating systems, print magazines are losing to other media—especially digital—and have been for a long time. In fact, lately it's been getting worse.

Just this month, ABC reported that newsstand magazine sales fell 9% in the first six months of this year. The Wall Street Journal reported a drop of 9.2% for consumer magazines, with double-digit drops for celebrity weeklies like People and Star. Women's Wear Daily reported similar drops for all but one fashion magazine: Vogue, thanks to one Lady Gaga cover.

The big computer-industry trade magazines from the '90s have either disappeared or gone digital. Of the big three publishers, only IDG is still intact, and still putting out most of its original magazines in print.

We survived while others failed by getting lean and staying focused. But the costs of printing and distributing continue to go up. We could keep publishing in print if we could raise the number of advertiser pages, but we don't see that happening.

What we do see is a core readership that has stuck with us, along with Linux, for a generation. You, our readers, are at the heart of Linux, and always have been. We want to keep that heart beating.

That heart will beat with much more strength if the blood flows entirely through bits and pixels. It also will be better aligned with the world we helped create. (We were online and helping ISPs grow even before the first graphical browsers showed up.) The opportunities online are as wide as the digital horizons. And we won't be confined by the physical and cost limits of paper and ink.

Those limits include space. We can name many examples of articles, columns and regular features that have been cut to fit the limited spaces of our print pages. We also can name many examples of digital pieces that have been very successful, outside the confines of print. Working in two media has always pulled us in different directions. Now we can move forward in the winning direction, without the drag.

But we can't do it if you're not with us. For that we need two things.

The first is for you to keep subscribing. Our first all-digital edition of Linux Journal--#209--will go out on schedule, directly to all print subscribers. It will be the same magazine it always has been. It also will be searchable, interactive, printable and, therefore, also green (a small bonus, but one we do care about).

The second is to get your input and participation in making Linux Journal the magazine you want it to be. We are setting a forum for conversation with subscribers, plus a forum for  conversation with non-paying readers. I also invite you to write us directly at For more help, visit our FAQ.

Linux Journal is your magazine. You're the ones who pay for it, and you're the ones whose help we need and appreciate the most. Linux always has been a construction project, and the same is true for this magazine. Please help us keep building it in ways that work best for you—and for everybody out in user space too.

See also:



Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal


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Sad to see this happen

patwarn's picture

After I got my iPad last year I was all jazzed to convert all my magazine subscriptions to digital. Most of them were through the Zinio app, some were PDFs, and a few had stand alone apps. After a while I began to notice that I didn't seem to be enjoying reading magazines as much as I one did, and finally about a month ago when a Zinio update totally hosed up my "library" and I could read anything I gave up digital and went back to paper. For me magazines are a different type of reading than books or web sites/RSS. For the most part they are graphical, with the color, layout, and graphics playing a big part of the reading experience. The articles are short. The magazine is both portable and disposable. I can read it in the pool, roll it up and take it anywhere to read without seeming rude or attracting attention as is often the case with a device like an iPad or Kindle. IN other words magazines work much better on paper than on any digital device. I have been so much happier since I switched all my magazines back to paper. And I'm not anti-digital, I love my kindle and havent bought a paper book in over a year and can't ever see going back.

I worry about LJ because it seems like you are going down the same path as other once great publications like PC Mag have. PC Mag got smaller and smaller as ad pages decreased, then went digital, the ads went away, they started publishing even fewer articles, and finally I stopped subscribing.

Is it possible that LJ is really competing with the web and is bound to failure on this path? I can't think of an example of a magazine that has successfully switched to digital only. I'd happily pay more for my subscription to cover additional costs if I got a print publication that had relevant information that wasn't on twenty different websites for free. (I don't remember how much I pay for Linux Pro Magazine, but I'm sure it is several times more than LJ charges and I feel like I get good value for my money.)

I understand your dilemma and wish there was an easy answer. I don't think the digital only route is it, but I'll keep my subscription and hope for the best.

PS: Is it just me or does anyone else see the irony of Linux Journal being offered as an iPad app? ;-)

Too late now, but...

ewalstad's picture would have been nice to have a discussion about raising subscription fees. I would have paid more to keep print alive (and even more to have fewer ads).

Great news for linux journal,

Ali Baba's picture

Great news for linux journal, not so good for subscribers. Problem is pricing is to high. Why subscription cost $29 and not less there is no printing cost?

Digital ONLY subscription STUPIDITY!!

foo's picture

If I wanted a digital subscription, I would have subscribed to a digital subscription. I do NOT want a digital subscription I want the magazine I PAID for.

So your costs have been significantly reduced and my costs significantly increased yet I see nothing about the subscription costs being reduced.

I have been a subscriber since 1994 and I am currently paid through July of 2013. I am going to call and cancel unless this is reversed. I want my money back!!

In addition this has been very poorly executed. Your subscription staff did not even know this was happening. Nothing like keeping your staff informed when things change. The guy I spoke to was nice enough but he had no clue what I was talking about. He finally asked someone else and was informed I was right.


Customer Service

Carlie Fairchild's picture

I apologize for our customer service staff not being on top of it. We work with a fulfillment house to process orders and while we spent time with them on making sure the message would be delivered to readers accurately, it sounds like you got someone there that hadn't been informed yet. Thanks for bringing this up -- we're actually in talks with them at this very minute to make sure this is handled better. Sorry again.

Carlie Fairchild is the publisher of Linux Journal.

A great pity - the first death knell for LJ

Tony Mountifield's picture

This is a sad day indeed. I have been a subscriber since issue 1 and I still have them all.

Like many other people, I don't want to have to read LJ on a screen. I want to read it at the breakfast table, or on my lap in the lounge or on the train. I want to be able to flick through it and see what catches my eye first. My wife likes to be able to dip into it occasionally too.

I too will not be renewing my subscription. I'm glad I didn't act on the first reminder I received last month. When my current sub runs out that's it.

It would not surprise me one bit to find that LJ's subscriber base plummets so much thay can't even afford to produce the digital edition. Give it one year - eighteen months at most. What a tragedy and a waste.

Beyond pity

Doc Searls's picture

Sorry to hear that, Tony.

What would you have us do?

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

Likely will cancel

Anonymous's picture

I've been subscribing to Linux Journal for many years, but I have no interest in reading it on a computer screen, or a tiny android phone.

I like the printed version as it's easy on the eyes and I can read it away from the computer.

I spend a lot of time working at the computer, so I don't want to read magazines there.

If you can provide a pdf, you can provide print version.

I'd rather see an increased subscription rate then go digital.

If I can't read the mag in comfort, why subscribe?

At minimum, you should provide a format for e-readers.

A kindle one is obvious choice, but you should make sure
you also provide a high quality Adobe epub version.

In Canada, the main e-reader is the kobo which handles epub just fine.

A pdf is horrible on an e-reader. You can only see a portion of the width of page (say top left quarter) so you are for ever panning.

A pdf on an e-reader is a non-starter.

If the epub version read well on my kobo, I might consider continuing.

PDF or online or mobile only, I will definitely unsubscribe and switch to another linux mag.

Sad to do so, but you are leaving no choice.

Frankly, a digital only switch is too soon.

pad devices are not common, nor cheap enough to mean you are not leaving a large portion of your subscribers behind.

I think if you did a survey, you will found a large portion of your subscriber base does not have a feasible means to read the digital format (PDF and on a computer are not options).


This is why it's such a bad

Tuxly_Tuxford_McTuxtington's picture

This is why it's such a bad time for print. It just doesn't translate well to the devices that are out there. It is a fantastic time for audio or video podcasts (Leo Laporte and Revision3 are perfect examples), however these don't really utilize the kind of journalism that fuels a magazine. Instead, they rely on personalities offering opinions on stories, not indepth analysis of particular things.

This doesn't look good for Linux Journal. Digital versions of magazines are a bit cumbersome and blogs/website content doesn't bring in enough revenue (especially when people use adblockers).

LJ's stuck between a rock and a hard place. Their management of the next year or so will be crucial in determining if they'll become a major online Linux resource or a glorified niche tech blog. Unfortunately, taking a quick look at LJ forums indicate that there is virtually no online LJ community (many subforums were last active about 20 - 50 weeks ago). Nobody is coming to the site to participate. This does not bode well for the future of the magazine if it is going to be 100% digital. LJ must dramatically change its online strategy.

Kindle edition

JMS's picture

I really enjoy Linux Journal and I'm sad to see the print version go away without a suitable replacement (i.e., a Kindle edition). I find it much easier to read on a Kindle rather than on a computer or smartphone. I currently subscribe to both the digital and print editions because I like to save the digital version and have the ability to search them, but I always read the physical magazine. I would really appreciate having a Kindle version to replace the physical one.


It's unfortunate, but let's

Tuxly_Tuxford_McTuxtington's picture

It's unfortunate, but let's face it - as Linux Journal has now found out, print is very nearly dead. I have been wondering for the past few years how long LJ could hold on, but the inevitable end has arrived.

I do, however, think that it's possible to thrive in a digital-only world. It will require massive changes, though - far more than just publishing PDFs of the same magazine with the same layout.

Unfortunately, digital just doesn't work for me when it comes to LJ. I've subscribed to the PDF version, but I just never read it. It must be that my relatively small 1366x768 widescreen monitor absolutely sucks with PDFs. My ebook reader is a headache with PDFs. I'm not going to buy an iPad or a new monitor just to read one magazine.

Although I can no longer justify financially supporting the magazine, I do hope that Linux Journal makes a successful transition. All the best to the editors and columnists who rely on Linux Journal to feed their families. I really hope it works out.

No notice and no consultation :(

Tony Mountifield's picture

Well judging by all the dissatisfied comments here and elsewhere, I think you would have kept more subscribers if you had kept the print edition and just increased the cover price by $1, or even $2 if really necessary.

I'm sure people are also hacked off by the sudden "bombshell" announcement, rather than at least some notice and preferably the opportunity to express an opinion about the possible ways forward. What's wrong with a bit of forward planning?

Handle this entire situation

ryan.braun's picture

Handle this entire situation with a little more class is one suggestion (not you personally Doc btw)

You can't tell me this was a decision made over beers at lunch today was it? We have posts where people have called to cancel only to have CSR's not know whats going on (way to throw those CSR's under the bus on a friday afternoon btw)

No option given up front for those that want nothing to do with digital to get our money back and not have any pdfs mailed to us.

No warning to those who may have renewed in the last couple of months that there *may* be HUGE changes coming to LJ.

No warning to those already subscribed that the final paper copy is X months away.

This whole thing stinks and totally makes LJ seem like some fly-by-night company.

heavy sigh

Brian Greiner's picture

Damn. I *like* paper-based media. It needs no power or special (ie. expensive) electronic do-hickey to read it.
Oh, yeah ... and I just renewed for 2 yrs AND paid a premium to add the digital edition added on to the subscription. The FAQ implies that my subscription gets extended, but I'll have to check the prices and details to see if that is true.
And as of 4:00PM EDT on Friday the 19th, I've not yet received the first all-digital edition.
BUT having said all that, I'm *really* glad to see that LJ is continuing. Yes, the paper format is often handier, but I can adapt. Far too many good publications have entered the bit-bucket forever because they were paper-only. LJ is a damn good publication, and I'd be sorry to lose it.
I'll save any complaints about the digital format until I've seen a few issues. But I do hope you modify the layout to better reflect digital readers (whether pad, ereader, or whatever).

Carry on publishing the good stuff.




Doc Searls's picture

Thanks, Brian. Your response and others like it warm our hearts and what keep us going. We would have loved to stayed in print. In my case in particular, I've been writing for print, one way or another, since 1964. I'm a print guy, even though I enjoy writing for pixels and in some ways prefer it.

But adapting is what we all need to do, alas. And the opportunities to grow and improve are all on the digital side.

Give us all the input you can about how you'd like to see us do that.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

Further comments on the new PDF version

Brian Greiner's picture

Just had a look at the sample PDF issue. The problem with the current PDF version is that it is formatted for PORTRAIT, ie. identical to the now-obsolete print version. All computer screens are landscape-oriented, which means that reading the PDF involves manual pan-and-scan. Ick (to be polite about it). You *really* need to re-format your PDF's to landscape. Really, really. Dr.Dobb's managed to figure that out, so I expected better from LJ.

As for the texerity format, a pox upon it. I DO NOT want an online-only format ... I took a look at it, and it ain't that great.

Why not offer an ePub formatted version? That's a great and widely-used format for eReaders. Lots of good open-source readers available for it, too (for a wide variety of o/s's).

As for the ads, I don't mind them and often find them useful. In addition, they help to fund a better product.

Speaking of funding, I can certainly sympathize with those who want a subscription extension. Given the cost savings from not printing or mailing, it would be nice to see some return on those savings as a subscriber. However, I would much rather see more quality articles by quality authors. How is this new format going to impact the authors in terms of up-front payments as well as residuals?



Somewhat dissapointing

dar's picture

I've been seriously considering getting a subscription to the hard copy of Linux Journal for awhile now. There is just something about having a physical copy of a magazine or book that appeals to me. You can take it anywhere, and not worry about needing a power source just to read.
I know digital books and magazines are all the rage, and sales of books and mags are down, it would still be nice to have the option to get a hard copy, even if it cost more.

Byebye Linux Magazine, I'll miss you ! NO digital edition for me

Anonymous's picture

I don't want another Linux forum/blog, I subscribed for a real printed magazine that I can take it anywhere, under the sun, on the beach, etc...

Sorry, I will cancel my subscription and ask for a refund.

José Luis.


Ron Ruble's picture

You offer the option of PDF or "Enhanced Digital Format", but I can't see anything indicating what the difference is? What makes the Enhanced format enhanced?

I had never heard of

Tuxly_Tuxford_McTuxtington's picture

I had never heard of Texterity before today, but having googled it, it does look a lot better than PDF. There are samples of other magazines out there:


Anonymous's picture

Requires Google Gears to be able to read the enhanced version offline but Google Gears is slated to go away in 2012.

PDF vs. Enhanced Digital Format

Carlie Fairchild's picture

Our FAQ addresses this and may be helpful for you, .

Carlie Fairchild is the publisher of Linux Journal.

Well, it might be nice

Ron Ruble's picture

Hard to tell from the samples, since they aren't all fully functional unless you are a subscriber. You might consider also creating an e-reader friendly format, such as kindle AZW or Mobi, which can also be read on a kindle.

I'm not crazy about the change, There are real advantages to being able to read away from the computer.

And yes, I know I can read the pdfs on a kindle; but they don't flow and usually aren't useful.

Do not like

Ian Fox's picture

I'm going to start this comment out by bluntly stating: I do not like this change, and I am a paid subscriber.

I enjoy reading this magazine while I'm away from my computer, and it is literally the only time I ever read it. I have visited this website three times ever (one to subscribe, once from a google result, and once now). I should not have to print something out myself to read it, either.

If this is how you're going to be going in the future, you can count on me not renewing my subscription. I don't want to pay for a PDF, I already don't read the PDF that's sent out every month before the issue arrives. I already feel fairly cheated on the issues I've already paid for in this subscription cycle that I won't be physically receiving.

You lost another subscriber...

Matthew Musgrove's picture

I won't be renewing when my Linux Journal subscription runs out. A quick peak at online documentation don't bug me too much but I can't read digital books or magazine for long.

Annual / Bi-Annual issues ?

MoChaMan's picture

I think that US News and World Report made this same change but the problem is that the newsstand space is advertising per se . As long as a magazine occupies space on a rack it "exists" . Where is US News now ? Who knows ? Who cares ? It dove into the Internet pool where there are other virtual news outlets . It has lost it's identity, I believe .

I fear the same thing would happen to Linux Journal to a lesser degree because it does have a dedicated fan base but I think LJ would benefit by having an occasional print issue that includes the best of the last 6 months of online articles along with a CD so that people can enjoy the magazine offline , on the beach , during a power outage . There are a lot of people that enjoy keeping collections of magazines . This would appeal to them .

I think this suggestion would achieve the aim of saving money but also keep LJ in the mind of the masses that don't necessarily check the website every week .

Quarterly releases

Gumnos's picture

While I don't like the idea of losing the joy of the print edition appearing monthly, I agree that a quarterly print issue would be a worthwhile compromise.

I don't generally read LJ for news: I have RSS for that (well, the kernel-activity summary is nice so I don't have to drink from the LKML firehose). So I wouldn't miss articles that hinge on timeliness.

I read it for offline learning (e.g. articles by Kyle, Mitch, Ruben, etc) and would be nearly as content to have one fatter issue quarterly containing all the stuff rolled into one print issue. The format might even work better for some of the series like Mitch's umpteen OpenVPN installments, where he could just have had a single LONG article in a quarterly magazine.

Occasional print?

Doc Searls's picture

That's a good idea, and maybe it can be done.

Keep 'em coming.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

Going 100% digital but doesn't do anything about the layout?

Kai_'s picture

When a magazine is going 100% digital it has to do something with the layout.
Reading a magazine layout on a wide screen is a pain.

Look at TUX Magazine they had a wide screen layout and was a pleasure to read.


pdestefanis's picture


Take a look at app like the one released by The Economist for Android. Nice reflow, nice way to look at graphs.

If you add notes and highlighting, you will outdo them, and that will be great.

Thank you,


totally agree

juihaochiang's picture

This suggestion is excellent, at least we can still get a print-copy once a while.
I understand how hard today for these paper magazines.
There is not much profit from these printed papers.
Anyway, the worst thing is.. less than 1 week ago, I just made up my mind and subscribed to the printed version.. now it's gone.. I CANT accept it!

Sorry, I meant to reply MoChaMan's comments

juihaochiang's picture

hope we can still get the printed version in some way

I second that

corfy's picture

I second that. I don't see any reason to keep the traditional print layout of the magazine if you aren't going to be printing it.

Laugh at life or life will laugh at you.

Oh well

iGaucho's picture

The print version is one of the things that I have enjoyed as a subscriber about Linux Journal and it's a shame that's going away. I like being able to get away from a screen for a while and read about cool stuff. I can understand the challenges and as mentioned in the article LJ is far from the first to go all digital. Hopefully the same great content will make its way into the virtual pages of LJ and I certainly hope that there will now be even more meat going in without the extra overhead of print circulation.

Been there, done that

pcronin's picture

I've been a digital subscriber for a while now. I love the PDF version of the magazine.
Not sure why so many supposedly forward thinking nerds are clinging to the ancient media of paper.

Been there

Doc Searls's picture

Thanks for enjoying the digital subscriptions, and for hanging with us. We appreciate that a lot.

As for the forward thinking nerds, I'm in sympathy with them, because I'm one of them. I also like writing for paper and reading it. But I also like keeping LJ going, and improving, any way we can. Alas, print is no longer an option, and I like to think this will be better for us in the long run, because the wide open spaces are digital. The dead tree space is shrinking, and fast..

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

Doc, may I ask why print is

Deadguy's picture

may I ask why print is no longer an option?
not enough subscribers? subscription rates not covering costs?
I would gladly pay more per year for an actual magazine!!!
I'm staying on board and will deal with digital copies
but I prefer magazines that are real and I can hold in my hands.
I am a fan of technology but I am also a fan of tradition...
to me there is nothing cooler than getting my new issue of LJ
in the mail, reading it where I want to read it (how am I suppose to read LJ camping now huh?!?) anyway I'm really bummed out about this. hope you all will reconsider. looks to me like your losing some long time supporters from what I've seen here :(

I'm still with you but under protest..



Content matters

ranti's picture

Print or electronic, only the content matters to me. So, if the digital publishing works best for the magazine's situation, go for it.

Honestly, I have stacks of Linux Journals since, uh, long long time ago and finally, just recently, had the heart to recycle them and bought the magazine's CDs. The move from print to digital works well in my situation. :-)

Great Idea!

Pete Vargas Mas's picture

Congrats on the evolution to Linux Journal 3.0! Looking forward to continued reading of this excellent publication! Times are tough all over and I'm glad to see you all doing what you have to do to keep it going. I for one, as a regular reader, appreciate it.

Pete Vargas Mas is an avid indoorsman and a Linux Consultant.Pete is a RHCE and a MCSA, which so far has not caused any eddies in the space-time continuum. He spends most of his time these days herding hundreds of Linux servers.

I just ordered a 2 year

Rene's picture

I just ordered a 2 year subscription. Can I cancel it ??

Click "Customer Service" at

Tuxly_Tuxford_McTuxtington's picture

Click "Customer Service" at the bottom of the page, call the toll-free number. I was in the same boat, having received only 2 issues of 24. They reimburse you for all issues which haven't yet been shipped.


Anonymous's picture

As a subscriber over the last several years, this is not good.
I'll be cancelling....


James Williams's picture

So, I've paid for a hard-copy subscription to Linux Journal and your just going to drop that contract/obligation? I'm very disappointed.

James Williams


Doc Searls's picture

James, we have no choice, and we're doing all we can. We can do that better if we exist, and for that we need subscribers.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

Digital Edition

James Williams's picture

I will accept the digital addition. However, I have no mobile devices and can afford none. I will have only the option of reading it on my desktop display.

James Williams

Digital edition

Doc Searls's picture

Thanks for sticking with us, James. We want to keep you as a subscriber, however you read the magazine.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

Doc, will LJ be offering

ryan.braun's picture

Doc, will LJ be offering existing refunds on existing subscriptions for those of us that want nothing to do with all digital? I don't recall ever checking a box saying I would accept pdf's in lieu of a hard copy.

I called and cancelled (and

Tuxly_Tuxford_McTuxtington's picture

I called and cancelled (and got a refund for all remaining issues) without a problem. The customer service rep had no idea that the magazine was going all digital, though. :)

I could use some details

corfy's picture

I have no problem with Linux Journal being digital, but this article leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Being a computer magazine, I'd think some information in the article about what we would need to be able to read the digital issues would be rather important to include. What file format is it (or is it online only)? Will we need special software? Can it be read from mobile devices?

I guess since this is a Linux magazine, that I will be safe in assuming I won't be needing a proprietary Windows-only software to read the digital issues, but I don't like making assumptions like that.

Laugh at life or life will laugh at you.


Doc Searls's picture

I'm not the one to answer the questions about file formats and all that, beyond saying the current version is delivered to subscribers as a .pdf, and can be read on mobile devices. For more than that, however, go to and ask whatever the FAQ doesn't answer. Thanks.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal