Paper is dead - has PDF followed suit?

Paper is dead - has PDF followed suit?

Note: Tony will not address comments made to this editorial. Please refer to his blog entry for more information.

When I was 14, I bought my first computer magazine. Yes, I was a late starter! What I found amazing was that, after buying my first issue, I understood pretty none of what I had read. There were terms like CPU, RAM, protected mode, driver... I had simply no idea. I was partially excused: we are talking almost 20 years ago, and back then many of those terms weren't as popular as they are now.

Six months (and six issues) later, I realised that I was finally able to read that first magazine cover to cover and actually understand (nearly) everything. I finally had the vocabulary and the information to "get it"—and it felt great!

A little while later, I started advising all of my friends that they should buy and read magazines about their interests, if they were serious about them (a lot of them, as it turned out, were!). When they asked me why, I would answer: because you need the vocabulary, you need to know what's going on in your field.

Magazines were really important. The world's magazine market was booming, and publishers were undoubtedly happy.

Then, the internet came.

The shift was significant. Everybody knew it, but nobody was able to predict where it would all end up. Would contents become a per-pay privilege even on the internet? Would individuals start competing against multimillionaire companies and eventually kill them?

The war between bloggers and established journalism is under everybody's eyes. What is clear, is that paper magazines—once the cultural centre and virtual community of many topics—have become more and more irrelevant.

The paper magazine market has been slowing down significantly. People are not buying magazines as much—they are browsing the web. People are not paying for ad-infested magazines—they are reading online articles and occasionally clicking on ads.

At the beginning of the revolution, the PDF format was considered the bridge between the paper and the online world. Adobe did something very smart when they released the full PDF specifications (and then, later on, did something very stupid when they tried to keep for themselves the "enhancements", but that's another story). With PDFs, you could publish something electronically, and be sure that it would look exactly the same as it would look on paper. Many people believed that most of the paper magazines would simply turn into PDF ones, sold on the net. That step obviously (luckily?) didn't happen. At the end of the revolution, very few PDF magazines actually existed.

Why? Well, the world took an entirely different direction, in terms of contents and revenue—a direction that steered away from PDFs. Today:

  • Most income with online information comes from online banners. Although it is possible to publish clickable banners in PDF files, it's not straightforward and it's not the "norm".
  • Publishing in HTML format is very easy, and it doesn't require any composition efforts. Forget about Pagemaker, Quark XPress, and so on.
  • Most of the time, it's actually easier to read information from a web site than a PDF file, since PDFs often require horizontal scrolling and are more awkward to read.
  • Web sites end up in a person's bookmark or RSS feeds. PDF files end up in some obscure folder and forgotten about.
  • PDFs are much better in terms of printing. However, not many people seem to be willing to print their PDFs.
  • PDFs tend to be big, monolithic files, whereas web sites are made up of smaller pages. Big monolithic files are every web server's enemy.
  • It's easy to point to a specific web page. It's not straightforward to do so with PDFs—and even if you do, you will have to download the full PDF document to read a specific page
  • Google doesn't index PDF files very well. It's hard to get decent pageranking if your web site based on information stored in PDF files.
  • PDF is fantastic for distributing application forms (for example for banks etc.). However, you can hardly make money by distributing application forms...
  • Did I mention that composition is expensive?

Abobe could have addressed a lot of these problems very easily. For example, they could have offered a more straightforward, standard way of publishing banners in PDF files, allowing even Javascript (and therefore allowing Google banners). They could have offered templates for this, as well as published ways of making sure that there was no need for double scrolling while reading a document. Now, it's too late—and admittedly, even if they had done all of the right things, the web would have probably won anyway.

As you've probably already noticed, we have ourselves given up on releasing Free Software Magazine in PDF format. As far as we are concerned, PDF is gone—at least from our web site. We will probably still allow people to download the PDF files of the old issues. However, now we can focus more on the contents, and less on composition and distribution of big, clumsy files.

The world has changed significantly. Magazines used to be the cultural centre of every possible topic—and they used to sell well. Today, the internet is slowly but surely taking the place of magazines—and taking more and more advertising money away from paper publishing.

Paper—as well as PDF—is now a thing of the past. Web sites are gaining importance—at full throttle. Publishers need to adapt—and need to do it fast.

The alternative, is to painfully become irrelevant and fade away.



Floyd Chrysler's picture

I want a PDF version. I am not going to help you with your request to promote yourself with DIGG nor spend much time at your site until you re-instate a downloadable PDF version that I can read off-line at my leisure. Not everyone has constant access to the internet!

Ruas 0's picture
Submitted by Ruas 0 on

I want also a PDF version, I don't want to read the paper on screen. I like to have paper on my side to read them when I am waiting for appointment or any other waste of time. Thanks

zkyzlayer's picture
Submitted by zkyzlayer on

Please bring back PDF version. I as many readers of this magazine don't have a 24/7 internet conection so the PDF format is ideal for offline reading. I use to read this magazine cover to cover and do so during dead times like say transportation or before going to bed and without a PDF or simmilar version I seriously doubt that I'll be able to read anithing from this great magazine and since in my case "Intertet time" is very expensive it is prohibitive for me to spend it in reading articles on-line even if they are as interesting as the ones published in FSM, so please BRING BACK PDF VERSION !!!! or any other format suitable for offline reading

Marco Marongiu's picture

I used to print FSM and take it home with me because I find it very hard to read from the screen and, moreover, because I can't always take my PC with me. Needless to say, this will heavily cut the time I spend reading FSM articles. Add to this that there is NO printer-friendly version of the articles and you are all set: not only we don't have PDFs any more, but we don't have a way to easily print the articles for take-away...

It's not a change, it's a damage.

Is there anything we, the readers and the contributors of FSM, can do to have PDFs back?


Santanu Chatterjee's picture

Since I don't have internet connectivity on my home
computer, I generally download (i.e. used to download)
the PDF version and take home to read (I never printed
them. I do most of my reading from the computer screen).
But the problem now I am facing is that I will have to
create a folder for each issue and manually download the
printer friendly html version of _each_ article to that
folder and take the folder home.

Not something too great a problem, just a bit more work
on my part. So, I would like to request you to take the
approach taken by LWN. Their _entire_ issue (with _all_
articles) can be opened in a big printer friendly page
which I can download easily at one go.

Thanks for the great magazine, and thanks for making
it freely available.

Santanu Chatterjee

diggstech's picture
Submitted by diggstech on

So the lack of a downloadable pdf is no big deal. Just get PDF Creator from sourceforge and then whenever you want a pdf version of any article just print the "printer friendly" version to a PDF. I do it all the time. Easy and free (as in freedom to have it your way).

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Tony, PDF may be dead in your eyes, but what about those of us who are not able to sit in front of a 'net connected computer in order to read the mag?

I travel by train a lot, and the PDF is important (perhaps essential?) to me, as I can bung it on to a flash drive (or CD) and read the mag while travelling. Additionally, I can archive past copies and refer back to them when needed, or print out anything that I need to.

I'm all for progress, but it would be nice to preserve some element of sanity for those without a live connection to the 'net. Please, I urge you to reconsider your decision and bring back the PDF.

John Marsden

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I won't read much of the magazine anymore. I just don't need more on-line time. I print the PDF and read it cover-to-cover at my leisure - off-line.

Please bring it back


PJE's picture
Submitted by PJE on

I used to print articles to archive/read again. HTML print output is very browser specific, unlike PDF which should be handled the same by all readers.

There are any number of competing websites with similar information to what you provide - especially in the era of google - your advantage was how it was presented.

Your publication has lost 50% of its usefullness to me at one stroke.

I'm not too concerned about the layout of a magazine - rather the content. How about an option to have each article in a PDF format without all the menus etc to allow for archiving and printing.


vasco's picture
Submitted by vasco on

Agreed. Really, the information you provide is elsewhere: forums, blogs... The usefulness of your magazine was that it was... well, a magazine.

Narasimhan's picture
Submitted by Narasimhan on

In developing countries like mine(India..)internet..broadband is not every where.I always prefer to download
PDF. Either i can read off line or take print out and read at leisure.I can can read printed work in my bed and go for a sleep in the half-way through..but not with online..
Please revoke PDF option..


Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I miss the PDF. I used to take the pdf on my laptop for off-line reading...
Now, I am afraid I will not read most of it.

-- lux

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on


I did like the pdf version, but I understand your reasons for not providing a pdf anymore. But please, at least give us a 'printer-friendly' version of the articles.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I must confess that I've never read a FSM issue cover to cover... but only selected article that I discovered using the full-text indexing capabilities of my Macbook (i.e. Spotlight).

One can argue that Google will do this just as well... But there is a major difference: Google only works when there is an Internet connection and this is not (at all) guaranteed in the small country where I live, Mauritius.

But I understand that you must also get some money...

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Here in Brazil, we don't have constant access to the net, and I need to read the mag offline. Without the PDF issues, it's going to be hard for me to continue reading the magazine as allways.

I'd really appreciate if you go back to publishing PDF.


Constantinescu Nicolaie's picture

Imagine a small digital library that benefited from a digitization program in order to preserve unique works or Archimedes (although I don't now anyone having such...)
One way of sharing via dissemination instruments is to build an institutional repository. There comes the choice of format: ?

So, go on and shot my friends... which one is best known as a norm of maximal ergonomic comfort ? Of course the all mighty ODT and then comes PDF...

PDF is alive healthy and kick'n... Revolution is still yet to come, but untill then... let's make rational choices.

Jim Paradis's picture

My family and job keep me busy. The only time I get time to read your magazine is on the train to and from work. Unfortantly I don't have web access on the train. It was great to be able download you magazines in PDF format and read them on the train. If PDFs are to costly then some other format would be ok as long as it is readable in Linux. Thanks!


Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Hi, I have to kill some time traveling from home to work and back.
a print-out then is essential.

It does not have to be a nice magazine layout but some print of the hole magazine whould be nice.

Thanks Henny.

Alejandro 1's picture

You're gonna loose lots of readers with through way, you're denying to people the greatest point of FSM, the portability. I'm not going to print HTML pages and i think i'm not the only one. See you some day if you bring PDF's back.

Victor Tan's picture
Submitted by Victor Tan on

For pack-rats like me, keeping versions of FSM around in PDF was great.. just when i am tired of doing real work, i decide to just fire up the PDF version of FSM (issues 1..15). Afterall, years of Adobe has trained me to read PDFs quite efficiently.

Please consider backing the PDF format. tks! Maybe the fancy formatting can be removed..

jochem's picture
Submitted by jochem on

I dont understand your choice to only make it online, and no PDF!
You can stop calling it an magazine, if its only online, then you have got an website...not an magazine!
So reconsider please, advertise in the PDF as much as you like, if its lack of money, or find an good sponser, before you loose your readers! Ask your readers for help...

Good luck, and hopefully an brighter PDF future!

T Shawn Knisely's picture

I have to agree; I prefer the PDF format for many of the same reasons others have stated. I just PAID for a PDF only version of Linux Journal. Like others, I can read at will.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

The world is not so "online" as we would like it to be. Your magazine was perfect for offline reading. If you don't publish it in PDF, I'll stop reading it, as many other users.

Nevertheless, thank you very much for the first 15 releases of your magazine!


llista's picture
Submitted by llista on

If you want to make available the magazine only online then you should withdraw the link for donations because the website would be no different from any other pro-open source site that makes money with advertising and traffic, if you make it available via PDF it is understandable you may ask for donations because you can't have any income with website traffic.

Just my thoughts on the changes, the articles are excellent but what made the magazine special was that it was a magazine not an online website.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

What? No PDF? No read nor digg then.

GioGio's picture
Submitted by GioGio on

Please go back to Pdf or other printable format.
It is crazy to think that everyone is connected at everytime in everyplace to the net.
More ever reading off the line (maybe on paper) is still a need (any commuter can say that: on bus, on trai and so on) and sometimes a pleasure.
Please rethink about it.
Bye to next pdf or pdf like issue

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

In a world where web pages are the norm (and for computer-subject publications, it is) a good well-composited publication for printing is a change.

Analogy: When all the stores were brick-and-mortar, Amazon came along with something different. It worked well for them. All the johnny-come-lately's have to play catch-up to Amazon.

By dropping PDF and quality composition, you lose your Ace, your trump card. With them, you will be like most other web-sites discussing free-software. I may or may not want to visit your site. Without the PDF hook, I now will be just as likely to visit other sites.

Having said that, I appreciate the challenges for monetizing a PDF-based product. The revenue may rise, the expenses may drop; I can see that being attractive. But you have also put away your best hook.

I hope your new business works for you. Best of luck.

Saltamontes's picture

After a few time, i retuned to FSM seeking new information, and i'm used to download the FSM's PDFs and keep them for future reading.

If PDF in dont abailable for space reasons, an option might be make abailable *.tex downloads and we convert them to PDF with Latex, TEX, MickTex or equivalent software, or at least, a printable version of the online articles; but not everybody have internet access (no in Mexico).

Im agree about donations, but what i need to make a donation???, i need to have a credit card???, i haven't done it before.

//Sorry if i have mistakes in the writing, im trying to write well, enghish is a little difficult for me
Thanks to ALL!!! ^_^

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I don't think the whole magazine NEEDS to be in PDF format, much as some people might like it that way, but for technical articles, particularly those that spread over more than one page, a one-click download enhances the usefulness of the magazine tremendously. Open Office document, PDF, anything as long as we can get something that prints reasonably without too much hassle.

M.M.'s picture
Submitted by M.M. on

Can you keep a link for download of entire magazine? If you can´t give a PDF version, at least we will have a offline edition.

martonem's picture
Submitted by martonem on

PDF is not dead, or should I say the concept behind it (on-screen and print format consistency) is not...
You have already in the above comments heard some of the reasons:
1) Print for offline reading (can't read off screen for long time)
2) Not always connected to the Internet...etc.

Most of your problems revolved around the fact that it is more difficult from a business and money-making standpoint to use PDF format: banners, page ranking, etc. However, there is more to the Internet then making money (believe it or not). Yes getting forms from the IRS in PDF format may not be sexy but I wouldnt have it any other way. Also, I can't stand printing webpages -- like the ones at your site -- where there are 3-columns and the priting is all screwed up and contains superfluous material.

Also, many desktop search engines, including Google, index PDF files fairly well.

While I'm not touting Adobe format specifically, I sure hope that PDF or something like it is around for a while. And personally, I miss your PDF download magazine. If you do even a small amount of research on marketing in general, and online marketing specifically, you will see it always a wise move to give your "customers" more options in tead of less; especially when it doesnt really cost you much. The more ways you put yourself out there (PDF, podcast, online, traditional media) the more people you attract, and then they WILL go to your website and read and click on banners, etc.

As far as paper being dead in general, I'm not sure that will ever (i.e. our lifetime) be the case, but I have big hopes (and interest) in companies like ePaper. I consider it the Clavinova of paper - it has the same look and feel as the real thing, but all the advantages of electronic media.

Keep up the good work.

Steve's picture
Submitted by Steve on

Besides a reader of FSM, I'm also the publisher of my own PDF magazine (created entirely with FLOSS). I was giving serious consideration to dropping PDF and going to online-only, but the reactions I'm seeing here have made me reconsider.

Steve's picture
Submitted by Steve on

I pasted the wrong address in. I even caught it, and meant to fix it, and didn't.

My address is

Thanks for asking.

oiloil's picture
Submitted by oiloil on

I was curious and also, as a matter of fact, a fan of fair trade coffee!


DwalerXIII's picture
Submitted by DwalerXIII on

I am in a sutuation like Jim Paradis preveously desribed. I hardly have the time to read the magazine at home and my boss wouldn't like me to read the magazine during working hours. The only place where I can read your magazine is on the train.
And apart from that I don't like to read long articles on the screen.
I loved the PDF magazine and I hope you reconsider.

Daniel Lins de Albuquerque's picture

Hi, I'm from Brazil and in my country, a very small percentage of the population have a broad band connection. These people access the internet using a very expensive dial connection (unfortunately, telecommunication services here are not cheap) and they do a tremendous effort to get up to date with new technologies. To have a version of the magazine that can be read off line will give the opportunity to these people to get in contact with a great publication . Please, reconsider!

PS: I also use to download the pdf version of the magazine to my palm pilot to read it off line.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Bring back PDF or I'm outta here!

RickS's picture
Submitted by RickS on

Perhaps you could gain benefit from banner ads by releasing the html only version, followed a week later by the PDF version. I have dial-up internet (no high speed availabilty), I might read an article or two when it comes out, but the bulk of the reading would be PDF, as I can download it while doing other things. PDF files conserve my time, as I can read / skim them at whatever pace I like, paging, not scrolling. Occasionally I print articles as well.

rclay's picture
Submitted by rclay on

I am very disappointed at the exclusive on-line format. Normally I download the PDF and read parts of it on my desktop computer. Other parts I print and take with me for later viewing where a computer or internet connection is unavailable. I also let my desktop search software index the PDFs so that I can find articles easily at a later date. Alas, FSM is no longer a useful magazine. I'm not sure if it is a magazine at all.

Your supposition is wrong. Paper is not dead. The answer to your question, "will PDFs follow suit ?" is NO.

Eric Kilgore's picture

Even if it is a pdf generated from the website, I don't care...don't let pdf go away. I guess that I'm not alone in my opinion as I see from previous posts. Like others, I don't have time to read your mag online, so I print it off and read it at my leisure when I don't have connectivity.

If you are not going to publish PDF's any longer, please consider a "PRINTER FRIENDLY" version of your web articles. I enjoy the magazine and use the PDFs to archive issues of interest.

I guess I will have to look elsewhere for an accurate source of information that is considerate of their readership.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

"Paper—as well as PDF—is now a thing of the past.." this was one of the dumbest statements that I have read today. What would possess you to say such a uneducated statement?

Never mind spreading "obtuse" ideas. PDF's are not clumsy and are an ideal way of transporting information.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I agree with the above, it's the reason i book marked your site. I thought it was pretty unique to be able to get all of the contents offline in PDF format. I like to keep up with technology and other interesting ideas, having pdf meant i could have a copy on my pda or my phone for offline use.

Also using Mac OSX i could searching using spotlight finding information in your articles with ease.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

"Paper—as well as PDF—is now a thing of the past.." this was one of the dumbest statements that I have read today. What would possess you to say such a uneducated statement?

Never mind spreading "obtuse" ideas. PDF's are not clumsy and are an ideal way of transporting information.

Ben Asselstine's picture

I also enjoy the PDFs. I would like to see them available for this issue, and every issue afterwards.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I agree with the other users – I'd prefer a handy PDF instead of reading everything on screen.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I used to download the PDF-Version on my E-Reader (running linux). That way I could read it anywhere anytime. I won't download single Webpages for my reading machine.
I ask you to bring back the PDF-Version for as long as there is no free alternative to PDF!

anonymous1337-666's picture

Please bring back the PDF version. Not with the next issue but with this one.

Yes, I see through your scheme to drive more ads since ads online can be sold over and over while those inside the PDF are static.

But realize, you'll drive away your readers, and THAT will drive down your ad revenues far quicker than any small profit you would have made otherwise.

If you want my eyeballs, know that I *ALWAYS* use an adblocker, which blocks all web ads, but cannot block those inside a PDF!

Bad move, no digg for you!

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

It doesn't matter how you try to justify this change to yourself, those of us in the real world, as users and consumers, know your entire diatribe is a smokescreen for cutting costs and (hopefully) increasing ad revenue at the expense of usability, availability and reproducability for your readers.

PDF is not dead, and nowhere near it. Google pageranking is fine for your end, but does nothing for readers. Google search is great aif you want hundreds of results for the same piece which *might* be accurate. PDF search will bring you to your intended result much quicker. Google is designed for mass site searching. It has failed miserably for in-site searching. (Seen a yellow Google box in a server room lately?)

This decision is not good for your readers and will (there is no might here) impact your readership negatively. Have you missed the numersou articles over the past 4 years about why paper still exists, and is still the preference of the majority of consumers? You're fooling yourself to think magazines are dead. Go to your local bookstore. They're not only alive and kicking, they're still a dominant force. Bad decision. Worse MoJo.

ddyrr's picture
Submitted by ddyrr on

Reading from the computer monitor gives me a headache. I have a small headache after reading this one article. This sucks! I can't even read this thing, and the printed pages are not formatted well on paper. If you don't want to spend the time to make it pretty, just through it all together in a black and white PDF that will at least print well.


ddyrr's picture
Submitted by ddyrr on

You do realize that it doesn't cost anything to create the PDF, right? You can export it from most free software programs, such as OpenOffice, so it's not like it even has to cost anything and go against the principle of the site. Also, the search engines DO index the PDFs pretty well now. I constantly search for keywords that come up with many PDF result pages!


vogelap's picture
Submitted by vogelap on

I prefer the PDF version -- it's easier for me to read on paper than the screen, I can print it and read it when I want.

Please reconsider your idea to remove PDF!


wuff's picture
Submitted by wuff on

Just to add my .02 to the discussion - I would also like to add my voice to the apparent outcry to bring back the PDF version of FSM. I always thought the magazine style was a dramatic departure from the many many blog style online entities that populate, sometimes even pollute, the online world. Yours was a class act. Sorry - I just don't see that in the current format. Yes - I would read some of it online but the bulk of the reading was offline - carried around on a flash drive or emailed. Another big advantage of the PDF format was that, even when the FSM site was being hammered by folks wanting the new issue, one only had to put up with the sluggish response until you had the issue downloaded and then you could get out of the way! If today is any indication of the site response to online only access, I don't see how many would have the patience to repeatedly go throught the wait and "server not responding" messages to read each article.
Just wish you would reconsider.

Tinku Sampath's picture

All issues of FSM PDFs are in my laptop. So far, I considered it as a good resource for Free Software knowledge. I considers that as a library resource for Free Software related Technologies. Even I had some circumstances where I went through certain past PDF issues of FSM to find out some guidance/article related to a particular requirement. I don't have a regular internet connection to stay alive in the net for those usable hours for reading which I get very rarely. The same happens to many faithful readers of FSM.. So.. So far... FSM PDF issues were very useful to me since I could read at my convenience as they are already downloaded to my system. Also, PDF issues made your magazine more realistic and convenient for an enjoyable read.

My request: Please make FSM stay shiny and healthy through PDF issues.

pvdg's picture
Submitted by pvdg on

I agree with most of my fellow FSM readers above, who have given objective and sound reasons for wanting PDF back. I do have a large bandwidth, 24/7 connection available, but many people around the world don't. Making it difficult for them to read FSM offline is against the spirit of Free Software. The explanation given for the end of the pdf version doesn't suit me. I understand some of the arguments on the format itself, but then you must come up with an alternative downloadable, printer-friendly version.

Pollywog's picture
Submitted by Pollywog on

I won't tell you how to distribute your magazine, but I liked the PDF's and wondered why I was unable to find them now.

I like them because I can easily save the articles for reading later, even when I don't have Internet access.

MikeN's picture
Submitted by MikeN on

One of the reasons I liked (notice the use of past tense here) was because I could download it as a PDF and read it off-line at my leisure and keep it on my hard disk with all the back issues as a little FSM collection. I liked the magazine format in electronic form. I for one think this move is a big mistake...

Mark 1's picture
Submitted by Mark 1 on

Doing away with the PDF might make it simpler/cheaper for you to publish FSM but it also means I'm much less likey to read what you put out. There are too many other places online that suck up my time. I enjoyed having the PDF in part for reasons already listed by others in the comments, but also because having it separate from my web browser helped me to focus on the articles.

ErnieDV's picture
Submitted by ErnieDV on

I don't care whether a PDF is available, but I do care that an printer friendly version is available. The only reason I liked the PDF was because I could print specific articles for offline reading. Using CSS it is easy to prepare a printer friendly version that presents the entire article in one "page". Without this capability your site has just become so difficult to work with that the wonderful content has become useless. I am NOT going to print 5 different "pages" so that I can get the entire article. You've really shot yourself in the foot with this change and if you don't fix it you will have shot yourself in the head.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I also want the PDF version back. I print and read at my leisure. Sorry that I do not have the opportunity to bring my desktop around with me so I can read the articles. Even lugging the laptop around regularly can be a pain in the shoulder - not to mention not always having a wireless connection.

Add my vote in for bringing back the PDF. As one poster already said - "Thank you very much for the first 15 releases of your magazine!"

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Please keep the PDF. I prefer to download and save interesting issues/articles. Why? Because websites change, content comes and goes, broken links happen. There is nothing like having your own pdf copy, safe and secure, of something you value.

Speaking which, you can skip making PDF's of this column. :-)

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Bring PDF back or I will go on strike (from reading FSM of course)!

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Sorry to say that I will *NOT* be reading FSM on-line. If you can't produce a pdf version, then I am not interested in pressing many links to read bits of stories - life is too short.

Anders Jackson's picture

A PDF focus my reading, it collects the articles in a convinient format. Always with me in my computer, even when in a non Internet broad band connected site (like in a bus, and subways do have REALY lousy broad band connections).

HTML is good for fast to read, easy to digest information. PDF format (even not printed out on paper) gives a final touch. It is a definitve publishing date, not a web "I-change-it-whenever,-and-if-I-don't-do-it-now-I-fix-it-tomorrow-and-change-it-under-your-feet-kind-of"-publication.

It's makes your publication a Magazine and not a one of many web site. Despite your good articles. But those I can find with google the day I need them. No need to read them before, like a real magazine. Not as you so good described it in your editorial. To learn something new, not check up something that you already know.

I guess, both way are good ways (both PDF and HTML), but this is more like no way. Sorry.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

If you stop PDF files, how about offering other off-line options?

For example, you could offer a compressed archive containing the html and image files. The Linux Gazette,, is an excellent example of a publication doing this.

Another option could be to put each edition in a directory where wget could be used to pull down one or more files.

Also, I agree with other postings regarding printer friendly web pages.

Thanks for your magazine, I've always enjoyed reading it and I hope to continue doing so.

leefw's picture
Submitted by leefw on

First TUX magazine throw in the towel and now this? What's next? ;)
No, distributing you magazine in pdf makes a huge difference in my eyes. Please reconsider.

mabiddulph's picture
Submitted by mabiddulph on

Nope...I am quite happy to see it gone. Makes it easier for me to read just what I want to read.

Don't need some pdf reader that displays it one way and another reader the next.

Very happy with the change.


twclark21's picture
Submitted by twclark21 on

When using a "How To" article like "The lazy user’s guide to Writer, it is messy to have to be jumping between the browser and the application to follow the instructions.
PDF's are great for a lot of reasons as others have already posted. I also find reading articles on-line very difficult. The on-line version is very good but the off-line version allows for more reflective reading.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I too am a huge fan of the PDF. However, folks, you are forgetting something here -- creating a PDF of the article means that someone has to spend time (and maybe money) to actually lay out the articles. This isn't as simple as it sounds, and takes experienced designers at least a few hours per issue. If Tony and crew have to pay for this, it could easily cost $300 US per issue. And since they don't charge for subscriptions, that's likely coming out of their pockets. By posting everything online, they are probably saving a lot of money. I'd rather see the magazine continue in online form only, rather than have it go the way of TUX. But my preference -- PDF, please!

Ryan Cartwright's picture

creating a PDF of the article means that someone has to spend time (and maybe money) to actually lay out the articles

If we're talking about a PDF that resembles the printed magazine then perhaps you are correct but as most of the comments (in favour of PDF) I have read here are for the ability to read the content offline, specific layout is not required.

Tony - why not deploy something like htmldoc to provide dynamic pdf creation for each page.

Also - why I am on a roll - I like the printable version links but why not do it properly with a different CSS file for print media? That way there's no need for people to click a separate link.*

* Okay I understand that you make printable versions only available to logged in users ( and probably for good reason :o) ) but surely CSS is the way to go here?

mithrandir9x's picture

Without echoing too many of the sentiments already expressed, I'll tell you why another free software "magazine" lost me. I was once an avid reader of TUX, once distributed for free in PDF format. It wasn't that they started charging for it, I could care less about that, as I still maintain paper magazine and newspaper subscriptions. ( The WSJ ain't cheap!) It was more akin to their own arrogance. You see, they didn't listen to their own clientele. The letters to the editor were littered with complaints about their obvious KDE bias and all they did was denigrate those who would espouse any other GUI and proceed with elegant flourish about how great their pompous asses and their "magazine" was! When it came time to ante up for a paid subscription, I simply let it fall by the wayside. Why on earth would I continue to use a resource that doesn't serve me, let alone pay for it! You think I'll be paying for it by seeing some banner ads on your site? Phhhht! Adblock is always on! I am always connected (When the computer is on.) but I don't necessarily want my browser open all the time, nor do I find it convenient to print out a web page. That says nothing about the royal pain of editing out the GARBAGE that doesn't pertain to the information I'm seeking to print.
I remember comparing lines of code in FORTRAN from green and white, continuous feed paper to beige punchcards that actually fed the program into the the computer for my father when I was twelve. That was back in the '70's, before any of you nitwits had the first clue what a computer was , let alone Pong, videogames and free software! Most simply put, an OS is an OS, software is software (I have more linux machines than windows) and a magazine is just a flipping magazine! TV didn't kill radio anymore than computer access to the internet is killing print. What will eventually kill print and make online magazines like this one nothing more than another website to Google is the same thing that is now killing radio. Listening to the whining of a few fat cats who aren't making quite as much of your money as they are used to stealing from you! All that counts is living, loving, laughing, learning and putting out a product that actually serves you and those you are seeking to serve. Bring back the PDF!

sixsixeight's picture

For what it's worth, I will miss the PDF version of your content. While I will now occasionally stumble upon your web site as a result of searching on a specific topic, the incentive to put forth an effort to visit (to download your content in its entirety) is now gone. I have a few thoughts about the advantage to you that the PDF brought. Personally, I have become conditioned to ignore ads online. Generally, the only ads that get my attention are the ones that annoy me to the extent of producing negative emotions about the subject of the ads. Print ads, however, seem to grab my attention as they are part of the flow of a magazine as opposed to the interruption of a web page. Therefore, I notice all of the ads in the PDF version, whether they refer to something that is relevant to me or not. They actually give your content more value as far as advertisers are concerned when my eyes are taken into consideration. Also, with the online version of your magazine, I will be likely to leave shortly after arriving, usually going off on a tangent from a topic you have covered or to see what others have to say on the same subject. With the PDF version in hand, I would proceed to the next article (and the next ad) after reading an article, thus adding value to the ads in the PDF version. To end, I'd like to thank you for the content you have produced. I enjoyed it all, whether relevant to my needs or not. I'm sure I'll enjoy the content you produce in the future--just a lot less of it.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

The thought that PDF is dead really makes me wonder how out of touch the editors at FSM really are. I've disagreed with many of your articles in the past but always found somthing in each magazine for me to really digest and think about. But if your declairing the end of PDF when there is so much evidence to the contrary then I must begin to question more then just the ocassional content in FSM. What relivence does FSM have if they can't even understand the power of PDF's? What else are they wrong about?

PDF is not dead. I can't even begin to tell you how many of my magazines I wish i could get in PDF format. It's easy, it's portable, it looks great, and best of all, it allows me to keep many articles together in very little space. Now, if I want to archive FSM, I have to download every individual webpage and sort it out myself. I'm not that intrested in FSM.

Of all the people in the magazine business, i assumed FSM would understand that a few megs of space on a server is not that big of a deal. In an era where people are downloading hundereds of megs and even 4 gig distros at a time, you would think that 4-6 megs of a PDF would not be that big of a deal. Apparently it is to you. So, instead of having the convience of downloading your magazine in a few minutes and reading it when I wish, i now have to boot up my computer and get on the net to read it.

And for those who don't have great internet's much more convienient to just download it once, even if it takes longer, and read it off line then hope your connection will get you back on when you want. It's a total matter of convience.

I looked forward every month to my PDF download of Tux and FSM. Now I suppose I don't have either. I do come to FSM and read the few articles that get put up...but they've only been to satisfy my craving for the PDF know, somthing to chew on until then. Now that there's no PDF 'hook' to get me to return every month I don't know what will remind me to come looking for FSF anymore. Beleive it or not, some of us acutally memorize the URL's of what sites we visit. I don't bookmark any sites. If your site isn't intresting enough for me to memorize why should I clutter up my hard drive with another file telling me where you are. Besides, I'm on multiple machines everyday and they are running diffrent OS's. Just becuase I have it bookmarked on one machine does not mean it's on all my machines. If I have to use a flashdrive with a portable FF on it, I much rather just have the PDF to begin with.

There's been a few times I've decided not to come back to this site becuase I don't always agree with FSM's viewpoints. But I've always come back and I've always appricited the fact I can download the PDF's and get current again. Now, if I decide to not come back for any lenght of time, I can't do that.

I agree with everyone here who wants a return to the PFD articles. PDF gives the best of all worlds. You can read when and where you want. You don't need a connection to view it, and you can even print it when you want too. HTML files can't say that.

I wish you the best of luck with FSM. But your current actions really make me wonder if I want to continue our relationship.

Kirkup's picture
Submitted by Kirkup on

I used to print the PDF version and then read it when I was on the crapper.
What am I going to do now?
I may have to run cat5 into the toilet.........

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Personally I would say ignore all these comments. PDF is for girls. I hate it terribly. It is just aweful. It is almost as bad as java! Good riddance!

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

"PDF is for girls", surely that must be the stupid sexist comment of the day, and surely girls also have the right to read the FSM anyway.

Eric Drake's picture
Submitted by Eric Drake on

PDF - HTML it doesn't matter to me, these are stylistic issues. My interest is in the text. Ever try to grep a pdf file ?

It's easy to save the text from a web page and print it out. The same actually goes for the images as well.

The idea of storing up old magazines whether on paper or as pdf files doesn't make much sense to me, especially when it comes to technology related subjects which become at best historical documents within weeks. It's not like we are talking about snapshots of children in the family photo album unless one gets sentimental about the release of Fedora Core 2.

Newspapers have long viewed their information as disposable and frankly anyone who collects old newspapers and stores them up for reading at a later date is often viewed as having some form of obsessive compulsive disorder.

Holding on to the old doesn't prevent the flood of the new from washing everything out to sea. Might as well get used to the new paradigm. Besides, how much are you paying for this content anyway ? Personally, I'm thankful to Free Software Magazine and the people who work to bring me this content. It would cost me more than I could afford to go out and get it all myself.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Personally I cant stand PDF. It is hideous. I don't know which is worse, PDF, or Java. Both are for girls. Please stick with the HTML version only.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I don't read a whole magazine online, can't afford the connection time and don't like the jumping back and forth to read articles.
If you offered just a large continuous text file I could print to CutePDFwriter myself.
Sometimes your article titles seemed to take up half a page, and although pretty, didn't seem right for a PDF reader.
Maybe you should rethink the whole layout.
Greg White

gweeper64's picture
Submitted by gweeper64 on

I just found this "magazine" a little more than a week ago and was very happy to find 15 back issues in PDF format to download and catch up on as time allowed.

I find it an interesting coincidence that Tux Magazine dies and now we're loosing PDF downloads formats here. And Tony Mobily was/is associated with both of them.

+1 for reconsidering killing the PDF format. I hadn't even gotten around to donating/subscribing yet. If there won't be any more PDF's, I probably never will.

nicko68's picture
Submitted by nicko68 on

Sorry, I like PDFs, and apparently others do too. Bring back the PDF format. Not everything has to be connected to the net all the time. Most of the reasons you cited benefit you, not the readers, so maybe publishers want it dead, but readers apparently still like the format.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I also like the PDF and it was the thing that first attracted me to the magazine. I also read it off line during transit on the work laptop. I'm hoping to get a Digital Paper reader if they get released in Australia. They are good for the eyes and can store these formats like that are a "thing of the past" Sony make one if any one is interested. I'm very unlikely to read much of the magazine without an offline format.

Note Adobe after taking PDF/A PDF/X PDF/E PDF/H subsets to the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) are now going to take the whole 1.7 specification to ISO so that PDF will be a properly Standards based approach for all. They have learned the errors of their past ways, and have been involved in the push for the Open Document Format (ODF).

So please find a way to bring back some form of the magazine on PDF.

ErnieDV's picture
Submitted by ErnieDV on

"PDFs are much better in terms of printing. However, not many people seem to be willing to print their PDFs."
The comments above should make it pretty clear how utterly stupid this reasoning is. Did you ask anyone outside of your own organization?

"It's easy to point to a specific web page. It's not straightforward to do so with PDFs—and even if you do, you will have to download the full PDF document to read a specific page."
It's actually very easy if the PDF is put together with links in the table of contents and it's not hard to do. What's worse is that you have now created a system where you can easily jump to one article, but it will take you 5 print commands to print out the whole article. I'll take downloading the entire PDF file any day over this alternative.

The shame of it is that it's so easy to use CSS to create web pages that will provide the entire article in one printable format. When you dump PDF using bad reasoning and faulty research, then compound it by not providing an easily obtainable alternative, you end up damaging your credibility as a mouthpiece for free software.

It really makes me wonder about the previous comments about Tony's association with Tux and this site. Tux never listened to the "subscribers" who kept saying that their landscape PDFs were bad compared to a traditional portrait format. Tux never believed either that people prefer to print this stuff. It's really sad. The spirit of Open Source is supposed to be about listening to people's needs and responding to those with tools that are actually useful. This reminds me far too much of the arrogance and fraudulent reasoning of that gang in Redmond.

Peter Anderson 0's picture


I might seem to be your only supporter but I think it is a good move into HTML/CSS format. It is just as readable and with a tabbed browser (such as Firefox) it is actually more convenient because you can have several pages open at the one time and skip between them much easier.

From a production point of view (and therefore a cost point of view) I would assume that web pages are much cheaper to produce; layout is much easier and more flexible.

My only worry is that you continue to provide an on-line catalogue of past issues. The PDF version made it easy to keep past issues; web pages make it virtually impossible for individual readers to keep back issues.

Keep with the new format for a while; I'm sure readers will get used to it. My alternate e-mail signature block (listed below) is relevant to your efforts:

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things -- Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, ch. 6


There are 10 types of people in the world - those who understand binary and those who don't.

Ryan Cartwright's picture

Tony, I might seem to be your only supporter...
You're not alone here Peter. I suspect there are many who agree but are, shall we say, less vocal that those opposed.

I for one think PDF is a horrible thing. I can see it's purpose in certain areas but for something like this I'd much rather have a properly formatted HTML/CSS combination. Tony is working on that and has gone part way to it now.

I've tried to be objective with my comments here but after reading some more of the stuff posted here rallying for PDF downloads I have had enough.

  • If you want to read the article offline then do so - download the web page via your browser.
  • If you want to hold it in your hand then do so - print it off and take it with you. Are you really telling me that the layout of the words into columns makes the content so much worse?
  • If you are so in need of a PDF file then make one - load the pages into OOo and export them or something

But for goodness sakes stop whining as if you are owed something here. You pay no fees, you receive great and good content for nowt and yet you act as if you own the magazine. Here's an idea - instead of criticising and consuming why not try participating and contributing? Not everyone has to write articles perhaps some of you who deem PDF as so vital could offer to produce a formatted PDF for FSM - free of charge of course. Now they may not take you up on it but so far I have see all demands and no offers - how very community oriented we free software people can be.

Personally I don't want to see a PDF version but I can see that it might be useful to others. For me, the primary format for this magazine has always been on-line. Tony has listed very good reasons (in his blog) for his decision and I for one think it's the right one and a brave one. Brave not because of upsetting some of the readership but because it is daring to push boundaries where contemporaries fear to tread.


tacoz's picture
Submitted by tacoz on

You've made your choice, but please bring back something for offline reading... if not a PDF then a zip download of an issue (that's in HTML).

While HTML print output is very browser specific there is nothing wrong with doing it that way if you simply plan ahead by pointing a stylesheet to media type equals printer. That way one could eliminate some containers, ensure a fixed print font, page settings, etc etc. This way you still get smaller download sizes and you alleviate most of the printing issues.

Sean Boran's picture
Submitted by Sean Boran on

If I don't have a PDF or something I can read offline, I simply won't read this magazine.
Full stop.
And that would be a great pity.

I simply do not have the time, I'm already online too many hours per day.

I didn't go though the above comments in details and won't be reading the rest of the magazine. There are millions of interactive forums and web pages. I simply want an OpenSource MAGAZINE.

Bill Bastick's picture

I've read most of the "I want PDF" comments but I'm not sure it really matters. There are other options without having to rely on Adobe ! For example, if you are using Firefox, just 'Scrapbook' the articles you want to read offline. Or, if like me, you use Konqueror, then the same result can be achieved with the 'Archive web page' tool.
At least this way you can have the best of both worlds and are not downloading content you may never look at again. Cheers, Bill

sidhymes's picture
Submitted by sidhymes on

Contrary to marketing hype and Bill Gates' wishes, neither websites nor computers are available 24/7. Reading online works in short spurts; long articles, especially technical ones, demand paper. I'm in Baghdad and getting online is often a challenge, to say the least.

Please bring back the downloadable, printable PDF version.

Tony Gist's picture
Submitted by Tony Gist on

Please bring back the PDF version. For me the PDF version is far superior primarily because I like to copy the PDF version to my PDA for reading at leisure.

pedgds's picture
Submitted by pedgds on

I think that you've done a stupid mistake taking away a pdf version. Now I can't download a full magazine, print it in easy way and build my own archive on my laptop which doesn't have a net-connection and without it I'm not able to read the Magazine when my girlfriend is using a PC (connected to the net) or when I'm travelling by bus to my parents.

I think that you want us to view the commercials in the articles.

pedgds's picture
Submitted by pedgds on

I forget to tell you that I live in Poland and do not have a 24h/day connection wherever I go. Second thing: why should I read on the Web? You were doing a great thing, now you are like the "Wired"- articles online with adds and I am almost sure, that you will do PDF again but you will want us to pay for that. For a person without a credit card (yes, it is possible) it would be the end of reading your Magazine.


greywizard's picture
Submitted by greywizard on

First of all thanks for all your hard work - I've learnt a lot from some of the articles. But I also have to agree - please at least provide a zipped html format, or PDF versions of articles. I too tend to read articles when I'm away from the computer screen.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Unfortunately I do like PDF, and I like paper, both. PDF lets me have both because I can transfer all my PDFs from one computer to another, or I can print them out. I don't like webpages THAT much, specially webpages with lots of comments on them, because I'm a bit more conservative. I like Magazines where I can actually read only the article. I only go to the webpage to see the opinions of others about the same articles, like in the case of this webpage. I'm sorry, but I did not like this recent move by the Free Software Magazine.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Well, personally I welcome the move to HTML issues. It brings with it all the benefits of the browser, resizable type, columns that re-flow nicely when the page width is changed. It also uses my font of choice, and when I ask for it - my own stylesheet (not that fsm needs one).

I'm a big an of the FSM writers, but I often found myself forgetting about the pdf versions for weeks at a time. (However, using Evince or kpdf to read them, at least they remembered when I left off reading, unlike acroread...)

As for the rss mentioned above - will there be an rss feed announcing when new issues are available, or are you planning on moving away from the issue-based format and publishing individual articles?

Raghu Kodali's picture

I agree with others. Either PDF or something else is needed for offline reading. I am connected to the net 24/7. But I still like the look of a pdf in a book format than html.

I dont mind a latex or a lyx file though :-)

abda's picture
Submitted by abda on

As FSM bumped into the economics of running an e-mag, we the readers caught the flu. So gone are the days of the PDFs which some of us have archived, took with us to places, read cover-to-cover, or forwarded to friends (Yeah, technology in this part of the world is not as updated as there). Just as the way of e-mags going digital . . . anybody tried Zinio or QMags, FSM is going back in time when e-mags were purely web pages.

Has anyone tried reading FSM on a laptop while in the john, my wife says its gross! (I guess ladies don't read while in there . . . unreliable surveys say . . .only men do). Thus, I switched to PDFs-to-print. But with it gone, I might as well delete the 15 PDFs I archived to free some HD space as a sign of protest(?). Even the geeks' Plus magazine offer visitors a simple web-to-PDF option.

Is FSM suggesting that we could Teleport the site for each issue then redact it to PDF? Possibly doable but too taxing. But I don't have the luxury of reading FSM online cover to cover for hours, thereby increasing my pageaddict count (and clocking your website's counter, too). Or is FSM only testing the waters? Or FSM has just lost its Competitive Advantage?

Suggestion: maybe instead of sponsorship, a barter-trade could do: they make the PDF in exchange for you featuring their free software.

Well . . . I guess this action is the living proof of my signature block.
"More often than not, the best things in life are not for free."

Rafael Verduzco's picture

Ok, HTML based documents are easy to be built, indexed, modified, etc. On the other hand, pdf's are designed to be read either online or offline, and have the glorious advantage that they can be printed yielding a general appereance that is much more pretty than a printer-friendly HTML.

But please remember, as far as i can remember, the issues were produced via TeX/LaTeX and then converted into a pdf version of that document. And to produce a document with the quality that we saw in the former issues of FSM required a very long time, specially at the beggining, when they had to create the TeX macros and in general to set up the beatiful layout of the magazine.

Tony, you and your team really did an amazing job. All of the issues were beatiful. I think that this REALLY was an advantage that FSM had against another magazines about Free Software.

So, remember that both HTML and TeX are markup languages. In particular, HTML evolved from the original SGML specification. XML appeared as an alternative to formatting HTML pages, because you can specify the structure in XML and give it different appereances with CSS.

Then I suggest that instead of creating HTML only and to put a printer-fiendly version, FSM can have it's content's structure specified into XML and then translated into HTML (for your site convenience) and TeX/LaTeX --> PDF for the many readers that REALLY LOVED the PDF version of FSM.

Although the parsing/translation is not exactly a straightforward task, i hope that the community can help to get this done. In that way, you can have your high pageranks and the readers can have all of the advantages that pdf can bring.

Finally, I don't think PDF nor paper are dead, it's just that their uses are changing as time goes by and as technology and our lifestyles evolve. Even though nor paper nor pdf's are useful for every situation, i think they are to be with us for a long time still. If anyone have doubts just read the comments about those who don't have permanent broadband connections to the Internet, or don't have the time/will to read FSM on a computer screen.


Kurt Pfeifle's picture

Tony, this is a very ill-informed decision. Or you are not being honest about the real reasons, and are pulling your anti-PDF arguments in a very one-sided way in order to cover up what is the real motivation.

You are out of touch with what your audience is, what it requires, and why they came to love Freesoftware Magazine.

It is your decision -- but it may well lead to you needing to re-build from scratch your audience for a "HTML-only, online-only" publication (why should it then even keep the "magazine" part of its name?!), because all your old readers will have gone away.

Your decision, as I said.


See also my blog: "Freesoftware Magazine" ditches PDF download version (and hides previous issues)

Ole Nymoen's picture
Submitted by Ole Nymoen on

For issue 1-15 I have downloaded the pdf, printed it and read it on the subway. An enjoyable experience and I have read some articles that I would not normally read - which can be considered a good thing.

I have scanned the table of content for issue 16 and glanced at one of the articles. It is unlikely that I will do much more with future issues.

It is possible that a dollar and cent argument favor the latter, but it significantly reduces the amount of FSM stuff I read, possibly to zero. If it matters to actually get me to read your content then please bring back the pdf file.

Conserning Google, based on the number of pdf files my searches return it seems to me that they give them a quite high ranking. Not unreasonably as one can argue that it is a more "serious" format than your average "not much work required" web page.

Ryan Cartwright's picture

For issue 1-15 I have downloaded the pdf, printed it and read it on the subway. An enjoyable experience and I have read some articles that I would not normally read - which can be considered a good thing.

I have scanned the table of content for issue 16 and glanced at one of the articles. It is unlikely that I will do much more with future issues.

I thought that. I bought issue 15 and found I read much more of it than previous ones. I was wondering whether I would no longer read a whole issue because the articles were not on the next page.

Then I started using the tags a little more and found them quite useful.

What would be nice would be on each article to have a link to another (random?) article in the same issue. That might help those of us worried that we will only read the pieces on stuff we have heard of.


pedgds's picture
Submitted by pedgds on

So, maybe it is the time to do pdf version in the "guerilla way". Why wouldn't we prepare our own versions of pdf articles or all numbers? Let show the "masters" that readers are the biggest potential in this business. And if they don't want to hear us...

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Wow, do so many people really print out all the Web articles that they read? If I did that I'd consume a small forest every week.

maccampus's picture
Submitted by maccampus on

First , i still want a pdf version of the Free Software Magazine aswell.

I'm a Mac (OS X) user & this means for me pdf is pretty darn alive & kicking. Ofcourse on other OS's pdf isn't used at core but Acrobat Reader & maybe some other solutions brings support for the format with ease.

Even if not for magazine's, pdf support on your system will at some point be needed cause you downloaded a manual from a support site or from a software cdrom/dvd that you want to read.

PDF offers password protection, digital signiture & a possibility to control what the reader can do with it (allow/dissallow printing, cut&pasting) & a one file solution.

HTML could/SHOULD be, if used instead of pdf - as you dicide this, offered for download aswell (preferable zipped) but will exist of one or more html file(s) & a folder containing all other files (ex. gif's). (HTML would be source readable/editable so protection might be possible but easy disabled by someone with html expierience, i think)

One more thing about magazine's in pdf format, i think most printed magazine's use if they offer pdf versions & online subscriptions use the same -as printed- adds in the pdf as it will be an ecxact copy of the printed version which had to be composed with Quark or Adobe software anyway. Well maybe google can add support for printed versions of their banners somehow in the future. (Ex: as a Mac user the best axample of such pdf versions of a magazine i have seen is MacWorld US & UK which are darn good magazine's if i may say so )

Well folks , that's it , hope it wasn't too long

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

That's really a lie, as we all know...

-PDF is the numer one of ready to print layout exanged documents
-PDF was just chosen to replace PS for linux printing system (i.e. CUPS)
-PDF is open and stronger than XPS
-PDF is known everywhere
-PDF is ...

Anders Jackson's picture

Before more upset posts about PDF not dead and so forth, read Tony Mobily's Blog about what this realy is about.
He has looked at some ways to solve the problems...

And yes, I realy would like to have PDF back, but comment in his blog.

ajrees's picture
Submitted by ajrees on

The change to this site reduces it usefulness to me. The PDF is simple for me to carry on my thumb drive and have the information available when I am away from me computer and internet connection. I am disappointed at the decision made since some of the articles are very handy for me to refer to.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

PDF is indispensible where I come from.

p.s. Blogging is overhyped media sh**e, less than 1% of the world has even heard the term let alone read a blog.

admin's picture
Submitted by admin on


About the question "Who is this ****er", please use Google.
I am sorry to hear that a closed format such as PDF is indispensable anywhere in the world.

Thank you for your invaluable opinion about blogging. I am sure it will go very far.



Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Ladies and gentlemen, pdf is not the only way to take content with you. You can save whatever you want as an html file (or group of them) on your flash drive for later.

Use the 'printable version' and save it. You get the added advantage of not having to use adobe's reader which is horribly slow.

Change can be a good thing.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Give the people what the people want - PDF!

If I as a "customer" can't get content the way I want, alternatives are just a click away.

If customers click away they may never return.

If the purpose of a magazine is to communicate, you need to provide the content in multiple ways of consumption. Since this is a digital realm, providing the content in multiple ways adds only minimal difficulty on your end, while providing your readers maximum convenience in consuming what you have to say.

To exercise sweeping dictatorial powers and offer your content in only one format, is disrespectful of your readers (especially since it used to be available as a PDF.)The customer perception is, that I am getting less than I used to.

Since this is the internet age, I as a customer, do not have to accept this.

You can elect not to listen to your readers or you can do the right thing and change this policy.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

PDF could solve the problem of gigantic file sizes if it adapts the DJVU compression method (pronounced as Deja Vu, and are about 10% the file size of PDF files). The CBR (Comic Book Rar) format is now also a popular choice for making digital copies of image-intensive literature because it is simply a renamed RAR file of scanned items. Torrents of magazines are now mostly in the CBR format.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I think that if they are able to upgrade PDF a bit (make the files less clumsy, stop making people download the terrible Adobe PDF reader, make them more search engine friendly) they will continue to be important. Academia relies almost exclusively on PDF(along with e-books) for the distribution of articles and literature.


Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Maybe it's just me but I feel a little less groddy reading a magazine in the bathroom than I do bringing my laptop to the bathroom.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

PDF -- Proprietary Dumb F***ed-up

PDF's cause many printing problems. Funny when you consider that they are suppoed to aleviate exactly that.

Seriously, the number one document that has trouble printing is PDF. Especially PDF's that have been edited by different people (oten using different products).

I know that the "Portable Document Format" is supposed to allow different implementations on different platforms, but they seldom work as advertised.

I once got a form from the US Post Office in PDF. What a nightmare. The original was a double sided carbon form. The PDF didn't behave anything like the original. Impossible to use.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

IMHO the real problem is the user interface to the PDF file and not the PDF file itself. People associate Acrobat Reader with PDF files since its the most popular viewer out there (and since adobe created pioneered the PDF standard).

Acrobat is a pretty good viewer but its definitely not perfect.

The one main reason why i love PDF is b/c the formatting is preserved, and it looks the same on any of my machines:
1. Mac
2. PC
3. Linux
4. PocketPC
5. Palm
6. Unix (sun / sgi, etc)..

CSS / XHTML, etc gets the job done, but it gets annoying when you have to open a site that only supports IE, when you are running on linux.

my 2 cents.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I live in Saudi Arabia, in the Third World. And like most of Third World countries, the majority of people here are struggling with providing the necessities of life for themselves and their families. Things like 24/7 Internet connection are luxuries they simply can not dream of.

I and most of people on this planet need an off-line method of viewing the magazine. The PDF version of the magazine suited me perfectly. I used to print only the articles that I liked to read them when I was waiting for something (doctor's appointment, having my car washed , etc).

Please consider the majority of the world's population before taking such a drastic decision. Thanks for the great past issues. I'm sorry that I won't be able to read the magazine like I used to.


Faisal Yousuf
[email protected]

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Good riddance. I never did like PDF. Total pain in the neck it was. They've got what they deserved.


Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

PDF maybe be dead, but it won't go away. In fact, as OpenOffice continues to seep across the globe, it may become even more common, because high quality PDF files are so easy to create and distribute.

My vote goes for the PDF version for all the reasons already stated.


T313C0mun1s7's picture

How many comments are in agreement with the dropping of PDF vs. against the move to drop PDF? I think it becomes apparent rather quickly what the vast majority of people think about the decision to no longer provide a PDF version. So I only have one remaining question - WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?? I know you thought that is what the editorial explained, but you were obviously wrong.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

You guys may be a little arrogant to write off PDF's so casually.

I will agree they've gotten more complex than they need to be, but it still seems to be the most versatile and ubiquitous format.

For my own records I'll usually save websites as either PDF or Simple HTML for later access - to read later, or on another device.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I used to read this mag as pdf offline on my 770 on the run. No pdf version? --> no me here anymore. Sorry! I guess I have to move on. I liked the issued 0 to 15 and have em all stored.Too bad: As pdf dies, so will the freesoftwaremagazine. What a waste!


sainbayar's picture
Submitted by sainbayar on

I thought the PDF version of your magazine drove more readers to your website. How costly is it to have one of your graphic designers deal with the PDF publishing. You can always have both versions. I used to save the PDF version of FSM on my laptop and read it on my train ride to work... Whereas with HTML format, it is not the same.

shimmerknight's picture

It is a knownfact of life that people who disagree with something are usually the one's that will react...

After reading the editorial I do understand the reasons for this choice...
nevertheless I do miss the pdf-version.

But I guess the people behind FSM have spend some time thinking about this step. And the magazine still rocks imho.

And of course as someone has suggested the alternative is to convert the printer-friendly's to pdf yourself (going to download that program asap) :)

rpontes's picture
Submitted by rpontes on

I guess dumping PDF means you get to save on a proper graphic artist and readers if they chose, get stuck staring at just another horrible CMS layout. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll jump on the “web2.0” bandwagon, wouldn’t readers be lucky then… I’m giddy just thinking about all those pastels and rounded corners. I guess I’ll just stick with reading tux and o3and, I hope they don’t come up with a similar anti design flash of brilliance.

Heavy Surfer's picture

"Paper is dead..." You're joking...right??

The "paperless society" that was to follow the spread of computers never materialized. In fact paper used as a direct result of computers probably far out weight the computers themselves. Until I owned a home computer I had never had to buy paper by the box load.

Personally, I use RSS feeds to help filter the news/articles that I want to read -- then I print them to read off-line. No...paper is _not_ dead -- just the trees I'm sorry to say.

I believe that what we really need is a better version of paper -- something with all the advantages and none of the disadvantages.

I doubt that I'm alone in this regard....

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Instead of going through all the positives and negatives, a simple poll will tell you everything you need to know. I personally loved the PDF version because I could take it with me when I was offline and it looked really good. I feel it is a very risky move since you have spent so much time and effort to establish the magazine.

maccampus's picture
Submitted by maccampus on

Hi again,

well i was early here to talk about the missing PDF version , and as i understood the problem , i gave you solutions.

Now 2 or more weeks later, i see no solution implented yett. So i guesh you ain't considering a solution, atleast not for the current issue. Can it be that hard to make a zipped version of a print ready version of the html version of the magazine ??? Aren't your readers worth the small effort asked here ???

Okay i know some comments offered here was very negative & those subscribers don't really deserve such an effort BUT was my comments negative , didn't i bring you an easy solution & a few examples of it & was i the only positive comment ? I think not, please i plead again for an offline version.

Please don't see this as a treath or as a negative comment but i really think an online only edition would make me less intrested in the magazine & would probably only do the effort of creating an offline html myself if the article is Mac related & skipp the other article's even though the *nix open source articles are usefull for me aswell but in that case i'dd probably get my information on those apps through other channels as your channel obviously isn't the easiest way anymore to get it.

I hope you bring os some sort of offline version soon , thx

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I hope this is a joke!!! This will be an illusion not a revolution. Bring PDF BACK!!!. EVEN READING ON SCREEN is easier, the font is elegant and is a lot more print friendly.

Balbir Thomas's picture

Looks like only the maintainers of have the vision and know how on how to maintain and keep alive
a community supported and community owned magazine that is technically informative and can be downloaded to your laptop and read from anywhere. When I mean anywhere I also mean that 2/3 of the world where internet access is neither cheap nor common.

Adios freesoftwaremagzine you have turned to the dark side :-).

-Lord- UnR34l's picture

Stoping making the fsm in pdf format is as big mistake as adobe did. I as many of the fsm readers downloaded the magazine and usualy printed it. So in the name of 99,9% of the FSM i say PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEASEEEEEEEEEE make the FSM Back to PDf format, or you will loose a lot of readers. PLEEEEEEEEEEEEASEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

PDF files have a much better method of displaying fonts so that they hurt my eyes much less. They are also useful for archive purposes.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Hi Tony Mobily,

since the first issue of FSM, i've download the pdf version, print and read it.
like other comments previously, i always bring the printed pdf copy n read to fulfill my time waiting 'daily bureaucracy procedure'.very thankful to U and the FSM team. But what is more important in my xperience eith this printed pdf version is after i finish read it, i'll passed to other frens and automatically the Open Source movement will become bigger (my believe).

pls bring back the pdf version of FSM.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Please bring back the PDF version for all of the same reasons as posted by other commenters.

If the PDF version never re-materializes, what does everyone think about a PDF version of the Web pages? Adobe Acrobat will pull in a web page(s) and allow you to save as a PDF. Granted, it wouldn't be as good as the previous magazine issues, but atleast you would have a PDF for portability. The files could be hosted on one of those free storage web sites, with the FSM editors blessing of course.

ErnieDV's picture
Submitted by ErnieDV on

Issue 18 just came out. It's got several things in it that I'd like to print. I see at the bottom that a print version and PDF version are listed, but said to be unavailable. When I try it anyway I am introduced to "Karma" - what is simply one of the silliest and most frustrating things I've ever heard of. (I'd missed the original announcement because I had stopped coming back again and again to Issue 17 in hopes of successful printing. Without printing, FSM has little value for me regardless of how great the content is.)

I can't get either of these features unless I have enough "Karma", but I have no way of knowing how much I need to get these. I also have no idea how Karma is scored even though the system for recording scores is described. To add insult to injury, I cannot post a comment to the article that tells us about Karma (or to the forums - apparently I have no Karma).

I rarely have any comment to add to articles even though I may find them tremendously helpful. It just isn't a good use of anyone's time to have a page full of comments like "helpful article" just so that people can hope they'll accumulate points. I don't care about the ads, and I'm actually quite satisfied with printing them as long as I can actually read the article text around them. What I find both interesting and objectionable is putting in place a system that prevents me from obtaining what is offered because it is so convoluted and unrealistic.

I'd be willing to PAY for FSM to get these features. It's simple, it's attainable by everyone. What in the world is wrong with that??

Tony Mobily's picture


Sorry you don't like our karma system.
We are working on allowing people to "buy" those features. Since it's money we are talking about, it takes a lot of debugging and care.

In the meantime, while the system is getting ready, we decided to reward our more active members with those features.

I am sorry you are not one of them!



tushargokhale's picture

Please put all your magazine content in single html page, Yes including advertisements. We will print pdf files using CupsPDF or PdfPrinter. Going to each artical and printing each page as pdf is painful job.

I have no idea what is your idea and logic behind discontinuing pdf version, the only request is please please have all articels in ONE SINGLE HTML page.

Tushar Gokhale

Ryan Cartwright's picture

If you'll pardon the pun: this is a very old issue now. You'll note that the original post was over a year ago as were most of the comments.

Please put all your magazine content in single html page, Yes including advertisements. We will print pdf files using CupsPDF or PdfPrinter. Going to each artical and printing each page as pdf is painful job.

PDF and printer-friendly articles were available shortly after the this discussion took place, for registered users anyway. What disappeared was the print-quality PDFs of issues and articles. Recently, thanks to the re-design, the PDF issues have returned, you may find this forum conversation interesting.

I have no idea what is your idea and logic behind discontinuing pdf version, the only request is please please have all articels in ONE SINGLE HTML page.

Tony did respond on his blog with a more detailed explanation last year. A small amount of research would have shown this up.

cheers Ryan

Author information

Tony Mobily's picture


Tony is the founder and the Editor In Chief of Free Software Magazine