A view of the Reading Room tool for Opera magazine

Exact Editions is unusual in delivering digital magazines as streaming content. The user does not need to download a software application and the magazine is delivered as a succession of web pages. One of the advantages of this approach is that it is as easy to switch access off as it is to switch it on. Another advantage is that the user or reader can use and have fast access to a very large archive without needing to download masses of data.

We are now providing our publishers with a set of tools on their account pages where they can create relatively short-term links providing access to their content.

This is a publisher tool and it is quite general since it applies to all magazines hosted on the Exact Editions platforms. In a moment we will consider a few use cases, but the tool is very novel and potentially powerful so I am confident that we have not been at all able to anticipate the uses to which it will be put. Magazines have traditionally been able to distribute print magazine copies in controlled and targeted fashion: up-market hotels or airlines offer magazines to their customers for free and pay greatly discounted rates to the publishers. Digital magazines will often provide free access to print subscribers, or voucher copy access to advertisers. But such access is normally dependent on setting up the subscriber with a user name and password — a significant degree of friction. Our new Reading Room solution relies on making the access completely frictionless from the link — but time-limited in a degree the publisher can control. The Reading Room will close at a predetermined moment, which the publisher sets when they make the link.

Here are some possible use cases:

A one hour link: for an email to the journalists (or advertisers) who have contributed to your latest issue

A one day link: to be used on Twitter and Facebook for the festival, exhibition or event which is the focus of a current issue — perhaps next year for the night of the Opera Awards that the magazine co-sponsors

A one week link: perhaps for a mailing to the friends or supporters of an Opera house which is being featured in the current issue.

Exact Editions bears the cost of this solution — no extra charge is made for these predetermined access solutions which are freely at the disposal of publishers on the Exact Editions platform. All these publishers are concerned with selling subscriptions to individuals or institutions, or in some cases with providing access to members. This toolset appears to be ideally suited to those objectives, so we predict that the usage will be beneficial to readers, publishers and of course to the platform as it grows.

Exact Editions specialises in making, maintaining and licensing magazine archives, it is our mission to build archive databases that should last as long as possible and continue to grow as new issues are published. So, it may seem unlikely that a platform concerned and designed for permanence should easily support instant, short term, and vanishing access to magazine content. But really this concern with long term access and the potential for very short term access are two sides of the same coin — the database is designed for access and so lends itself to streaming solutions, which can be short or long as needed. When magazines are seen by their publishers and readers as streaming solutions that can be plugged into and connected with web based communities and services new uses will be found. Magazine Reading Rooms should become a part of this emerging new community structure in the web.