Friday, May 14, 2010

eBWD: Our Digital Edition

Friday, May 14, 2010
Our new digital edition is at

When I joined the staff of Bird Watcher's Digest in May of 1988, computers were still fairly uncommon in the publishing business, at least on the editorial and design side of things. I began working with then-editor Mary Beacom Bowers in a small satellite office in Baltimore, Maryland and I remember that we each had nice electric typewriters and stacks of BWD letterhead plus carbon paper for conducting all of our correspondence.

At the main headquarters office in Marietta, Ohio, BWD used a huge—literally room-sized—IBM AS-400 computer to keep track of our subscriptions, but everyone else was using the telephone and typewriter to communicate and work. By the end of that first year, I talked my dad into letting us buy two "facsimile" machines, so we could send important documents back and forth over the phone lines. E-mail, Fed-ex overnight packages, text messages, and so on, were all just a dream back then.

By the end of my second year, I convinced my dad to let me buy a Macintosh computer: an Apple SE with its floppy disc drive, 40 K of RAM, a built-in screen, and something weird called "a mouse." I began experimenting with letter writing on this new machine, and even did some truly rudimentary page layout. It was the start of something big.
My dad, Bill Thompson, Jr., co-founding publisher of BWD in the phone and typewriter era.

I even remember talking with Dad about the concept of everyone at BWD having a computer on their desk. But we had no idea if that would be productive or if everyone would just play "Pong" all day long.

Through the years, of course, the computer has become increasingly vital to the magazine publishing business. Today you cannot swing a catbird by the tail anywhere in our Marietta offices without hitting at least two computers. And there's simply no way I could have foreseen, nor any way I can convey the level of my joyful excitement, at what technology now allows us to do here at BWD.

Last month we launched eBWD, our digital edition of Bird Watcher's Digest. It's just like the printed magazine but with more interactive features, such as video, audio, and clickable links! Click on any web address or URL and ZING! off you go to that web page. Interested in an advertiser's product? It's now just a click away. Want hear what the cerulean warbler song sounds like? Click on the words in the text and you'll hear it!

All print subscribers to Bird Watcher's Digest can access eBWD for free simply by logging in with an active e-mail address. And fear not: we are NOT going to get rid of our print magazine. The old ink-on-paper version of BWD ain't going anywhere.

However, we are totally excited about all the things we can do in the digital edition—things that are simply impossible in print. Then there are the wonderful green advantages of supplying content to anyone in the world without consuming additional paper, ink, or burning fuel for shipping. That's good for the birds in the long run, right?

Our current issue (May/June 2010) features a male yellow-breasted chat on the cover—a lovely painting by the supremely talented artist John Sill. On the opening spread of the chat species profile, there's a link to a video of a male chat doing his crazy, looping courtship flight, courtesy of our friends at Several of our advertisers have added extra features to their ads.

Here's the bottom line: If you are already a subscriber to BWD, you can access the digital edition (eBWD) for free with your e-mail address. If you wish to subscribe to the print version of BWD, it's $19.99 and you can do that here.
Our digital edition looks and reads great on the iPad.

If you'd prefer to ONLY read/access the digital edition, that's just $15/year for six issues. A three-issue mini-subscription is $10. And a single issue of eBWD can be yours for just a five-spot ($5). You can read the mag via our online interface or download it for later reading on your computer, smart phone, or digital reader.

Once you've checked out eBWD, if you see something you like, there are amazingly easy ways for you to share an article with your friends via e-mail, via any of the social networking sites, or via a custom widget for your own web site or blog.

It's an exciting time to be the editor of a little bird magazine from Marietta, Ohio. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined this. But I'm so very happy to be living in these incredible times. To quote Kip from "Napolean Dynamite" "Yes, I love technologeeee!"

Anyone can have a free look inside the current issue of eBWD. I'd LOVE to hear your comments and reactions, ideas, and suggestions.

Until then, good birding and good reading!


On May 15, 2010 at 4:50 AM Erik said...

A number of the trade and business publications I receive went to digital editions over the last few years. I've seen the good, the bad, and the very ugly in the different interfaces. eBWD is among the best I've seen. Quick to load, easy to use, highly intuitive (like flipping through the paper copy), and smooth navigation. Nice job.

I'd switch to an electronic subscription if I wasn't donating my paper copy to the local nature center after I've read it. Judging by the condition of each magazine after a few weeks, people are looking at it.

On May 15, 2010 at 11:22 AM OpposableChums said...

Love eBWD! Elegant in its simplicity, like flipping through the paper copy, as Erik said. And a link in my ad! Sorry about the diagonal complication...