British Archaeology online!

I’m very excited to be able to say that there is now a digital version of British Archaeology, launched on October 21 by its publishers, the charity the Council for British Archaeology. It’s actually the world’s first English language general archaeology magazine to be available for digital subscription. So how does it work, and what does it offer? What does it mean if you already buy the printed magazine?

First, nothing changes as far as the magazine itself is concerned. It comes out every other month, 68 pages of columns, news, features, reviews and so on. You can continue to buy it in shops (if you can’t find it, just ask in your local WH Smith and they will get it for you) or have it delivered to your door as a subscriber (£21 for new subscribers). Council for British Archaeology members will continue to get the magazine as part of their membership benefits (£29 standard for new members). Prices have not changed.

Now on top of that, there is a digital subscription option, at £15.95 a year (or smaller amounts for part years). This gives you a magazine you can read on your computer, smart phone or tablet including iPad and Android.

The advantages are what you would expect of something digital:

  • There is an efficient word search facility, which really changes the way you can use the magazine
  • Cross references are live, meaning that if you click on a page reference (within the text or in the contents list) you will get straight to that page
  • Web addresses are live, and clicking will take you straight to the relevant website (that is attractive to advertisers as well as general readers, which is good for the publisher and thus good for the charity)
  • Email addresses and phone numbers are also live, so for example if you are reading on an iPhone you can click an address or a number and start a conversation
  • Book ISBNs are live: clicking will take you to the Amazon website; in the book review pages, you can also click through to the Oxbow site
  • Postcodes are live, and will click through to Google maps
  • You can enlarge images or text to suit yourself
  • If you are away from home, you can get the new issue as soon as it is launched, anywhere in the world

A further big plus is that when you subscribe, you have access to the full back catalogue as well as the newest issue. The Council for British Archaeology has put up the past year’s issues to launch this, and as the months go by this archive will grow. The magazines are all connected, so for example, if you search for “iron age”, you immediately get a list of all the occurrences of that phrase in the archive (the facility shows you the context, too, not just the phrase).

For anyone used to working and reading digitally, these are familiar features and will be welcomed. You can try all this out with a free sample issue.

There remain advantages to having the printed magazine:

  • Digital subscription is a live facility: not only do you need an electronic device to read your magazine, but you need access to an internet connection (you won’t be able to read much on the London underground)
  • While your online subscription is up to date, you have access to the full back catalogue. But if your subscription lapses, you will lose all access. You can download PDFs to keep, but only one page at a time and the downloads are slow; this is good for keeping the odd column or feature, but will drive you mad if you try to archive an entire issue
  • It’s a personal thing, but many of us will never wish to forsake the feel of a printed magazine in the hand or the accumulating copies on the shelf

Some people will prefer digital, some print. Digital should be particularly attractive to international subscribers, as it avoids the high charge for mailing out of the UK.

The best option of course would be to have both. And that is what Council for British Archaeology members will get. As soon as the set up work has been done (working through the large database), all members will receive the digital subscription as part of their existing membership package. This is really good value, in effect combining printed and digital subscriptions (at standard rates, together costing £42.95) and other membership benefits, as well as knowing you are supporting your charity, for the standard membership fee of £34.

I’m working on the next issue now, and it really has some good stuff in it. Out on December 9!

Finally, here is the brilliant Ben Gilliland’s take on our current cover feature, which appeared in the Metro papers on October 17. There’s always a place for print as well as digital.

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