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Creating and Selling Digital Editions

By Cheryl Woodard, Posted September 2008[PRINT VERSION]

Often a publisher cannot afford to put a printed magazine into maximum distribution. Just physically producing a printed magazine is one obstacle, and getting it mailed - particularly to far away places - is another. In many cases, a digital edition is the optimum solution.

There are many vendors offering low-cost, practical ways to publish a digital edition of your printed magazine -- or to create a digital one as an alternative to print. The best ones can convert your magazine or newsletter from a printed page or a PDF file into a simple Adobe Flash 'movie' that lets a reader flip through pages, go back and forth through the magazine, and interact with it, as though holding a copy in their hands.Here's a Wikipedia article about Flash if you are unfamiliar with the program.

With enough programming expertise (and time), you could create your own animated digital editions in the Flash program. But there are plenty of vendors who can do the heavy lifting for you and create an attractive, easy to read flash version of your magazine for a reasonable fee. The largest US vendor is Texterity, and you can see many examples at their site. Digital Publishing is a British company offering this service. Another very good one is a California firm that specializes in creating digital editions for magazine publishers. Olive Software and PressMart.Net are additional US vendors. And if you Google the phrase "digital publishing" or "flash publishing" you will find other vendors. We have no personal experience with any vendor and so cannot make a specific recommendation.

Generate Income Don't be tempted to give away the digital editions for free, just because you saved so much on printing and postage costs. Instead, think of the digital edition as a means for reaching readers who would not otherwise have access to the magazine. Many niche publishers are charging subscribers and single copy readers exactly the same for digital editions as they do for printed ones. Some offer a slight discount for the digital subscription. And as for advertisrs, well, the digital distribtuion should count as much as the printed readership does, but more often, publishers give away the digital distribution for free. That is, anyone advertising in the printed magazine pays a rate based on the print circulation, and the digital circulation is free.

Here are some examples of print magazine publishers fully implementing a digital publishing strategy:

More Information

I recommend my book for first-time publishers. You can read it in one weekend, and you'll learn everything you need to know about starting publications. My second book, Every Nonprofit's Guide to Publishing (co-authored with Lucia Hwang) covers web publishing in even greater detail. Look for both in your local library, well-stocked bookstores, or buy them right now from


If you are working on a publication and you need specific advice, feel free to email us. We work with newsletter, magazine, and book publishers of every variety. The chances are good that we can help you, too.


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