One of the most popular magazines in our service is The Ecologist.

There are several reasons for its popularity: the publishers have been active to promote the service both from their web pages and in print; the free trial issue includes a very popular article on breast feeding — this brings lots of traffic: the price is attractive (20% off the list price); there is a large international audience, etc. But clearly an important factor running for this magazine is that the digital edition has a very light (small?) ecological footprint. For many of the core readership that must be an important factor leading to the decision to purchase the digital edition. Also the publishers and writers on the magazine are equally passionate and activist in regard to ecological issues, so they are right behind the concept of digital magazines and reduced environmental impact.

But this all raises the question — how ecologically damaging is the magazine industry? It is certainly a matter that concerns industry heavyweights. For example the PPA has an Environment Committe which looks into these matters.

Targets are being set and there are certainly wasteful practices in the industry: eg the use of CD and other types of ‘covermount’, and the widespread use of sale or return. One publisher of a specialist magazine title told me that he expects to get up to 50% of his news stand distributed copies as ‘returns’. Technology can help with this. Wasteful physical sampling will be reduced by the use of digital sampling and an increased drive to get subscriptions through web-based promotion. But there is a lot to be said for the print product. The paper edition has a permanent place, so we hope that environmental awareness defines ‘best practice’ and leaves space for the quality of print.