Locus Online


17 October 2000

Referendum Survey Results, Part II

Results of our one week survey about Locus Online were posted last week; now we address and respond to reader comments submitted with those surveys.

First, a cut to the chase and resolution. Don't cancel your subscriptions; we're not putting Locus Magazine on the web. Even a subscription-only or password-protected section of the site is unlikely, for various reasons.

On the plus side, many of the options listed in the survey (as well as some of the suggestions in your responses) are attractive ideas we'd like to implement sooner or later: archives of older material, more current material, additional short fiction and book reviews.




Subscribers, would you still subscribe if the entire magazine were available on the website?



Subscribers, would you still subscribe if only the current issue were available on the website?



Would you be interested in a CD Rom of complete Locus book reviews?



Would you be interested in a CD Rom of the Locus Index to SF Awards?



Have you ever purchased a book from Amazon via a link from Locus Online?



Have you ever clicked on an SFFH-related banner ad on Locus Online?



(Where percentages do not add up to 100%, the gap is those who did not answer the question.)

We asked for ideas about new content, new sections of the website, and what you do or don't like about the site in general.

What people don't like

» I wish that, in keeping with Locus (print), you would restrict advertising on the site to SF/publishing related material. I hate ad pollution.

» REALLY dislike the cookies from advertisers.

» The only negative thing I can think of is the bestseller list (the compilation), which I find difficult to read (format).

Response: The non-genre related banner ads have been an experiment; they're supplied by an advertising service that cycles them at random and also tracks who clicks on what (via cookies) so that similar ads will then be supplied to those visitors. In practice, as elsewhere on the web, click-through rates are vanishingly small, which means it's barely worth our time to maintain the links (we only get paid when someone clicks through). Still, we have this vague sense that the presence of such ads gives the site a professional air that strictly amateur sites lack. For now, we'll keep them going, but try to acquire more genre-related ads to replace them. It's noteworthy that 56% of respondents indicated they've clicked on genre-related ads. (Authors! Promote your books! E-mail us for rates!)

We're always open to suggestions about formatting and layout. We worry about making fonts too small or pages too wide, but no one ever complains. (Probably they just click on to the next site.) We generally take our design cues from professional sites like Slate, Salon, and CNN; that, and keeping the site easy to maintain, is why it's relatively graphics-light.


» Don't try to duplicate SciFi Wire.

Response: We won't.

Missing short fiction

» The only deficiency I see in Locus (online or print) is that there is not enough coverage of short fiction. I would like to see more short fiction reviews or, perhaps, overviews of what's happening in SF/fantasy at shorter lengths. I also wouldn't mind seeing more opinion pieces or editorials about the field.

» Wouldn't mind seeing reviews by different reviewers of SF/f short fiction but would very much appreciate seeing Mark Kelly's reviews on-line. The same goes for the book reviews that appear in Locus magazine each month. They would be great to have on-line.

» In my opinion, one of the few deficiencies of Locus in general (online or print) is its less-than-thorough coverage of genre short fiction. I'd like to see more reviews in this area, or at least more attention to what is going on at shorter lengths. Lists of books received and attention to book publishing seems to dominate, but to me the energy of the field has traditionally been found in short fiction, which needs all the help they can get these days.

» Even though you have a real job - I would still like to see the short fiction reviews online keep pace with their printed versions.

Response: More of Mark Kelly's reviews will be excerpted online. In addition, we're trying to arrange to run occasional guest reviews, online only, of selected short fiction (but we're not going to duplicate Tangent either). Stay tuned.

Ideas about online/e-mail access

» Locus as a downloadable e-magazine for subscribers.

» Would I be willing to subscribe to an archive of old Locus material? I prefer to read stuff offline in dead vegetable format. However, living in an apartment increasingly filled with stacks of printed material on shelves and in boxes, it would be nice to just call up, online, the relevant reviews rather than sift through stacks of boxed magazines. Would I pay for the privilege? I don't know. Would the archive be all of Locus? I only have from 1985 on.

» A reduced subscription rate for e-subscribers only.

» I've answered the questions about the future options as I'd like to see them from a purely selfish POV. I don't actually expect you to offer Locus fully online at the current state of development of e-publishing.

» I'm a hardcopy subscriber of Locus and prefer to continue reading hardcopy versus online -- which I would just have to print out as best as possible anyhow. But if you're going to offer it in both online and hardcopy formats -- and the online is *free* -- well, what can I say! I subscribe, but subscription rates are high for me, and I'll take Locus in whatever format I can get it as cheaply as I can get it. Make sense?

» I love Locus Online, and visit it quite frequently to stay abreast of genre news. Perhaps you should consider an online-only subscription, cheaper than a print subscription but not free. Another semi-prozine, Speculations, made the switch from print to online and seems to have been successful in that. I wouldn't buy the print version if the entire contents were free online, but I would buy a cheaper online version.

» I'd still subscribe to the print magazine if you put up the whole issue on-line because I like to read the whole magazine in one sitting. If I have to do it on-line, it would take twice as long and I'd have to do it from work, so I could only read bits and pieces piecemeal.

» I enjoy receiving the written monthly magazine. However, I believe that if you posted the entire magazine for free over the net, I would probably drop my subscription.

» I like the idea of added content that is only available to subscribers. It would be nice if the website acknowledged the support given by those of us who have actually paid Real Money for the print edition by making certain content available only to us.

» I'd read most anything you make available online, and by making some sections at least subscriber only should attract more subscriptions, which of course would make the website more attractive to the non subscribers as well and thus you can't really go wrong with it. Means that I'd have to subscribe too. :)

» Having a little more Locus Magazine content on the site would be convenient, particularly archives or more book reviews. But I so prefer the tactile/visual benefits of the print magazine that I'd still go to the paper version for most things. I love the website for its timeliness---news, field updates, etc.

» What you might want to do is offer complete articles/interviews/review pages from the print mag 60 days or so after it's been out. That way the info would be up for those who don't subscribe but an incentive, so to speak, would still exist to subscribe.

Response: To reiterate, we have no plans to put the entire magazine online, or to offer e-subscriptions to password-protected sections of the site. Obviously, judging from the survey results (which are no surprise), it would not be economically viable to do so; not only would lots of subscribers not bother to subscribe to the print magazine, there'd be even less budget than there is now to maintain a website. True, there are some e-mail newsletters and web e-zines that survive by subsciption, but not in addition to a print version. The website itself generates scant income; more on this later. Still, things change quickly on the web and in electronic publishing, and we'll keep these responses and comments in mind for the future.

About CD ROMs

» Not really interested in CD-ROM of the Awards info, since it's also available online through other sources. (I do wish there were a way to get updates to the CD-ROM of the Locus Index to SF w/o purchasing a whole new $50 CD. Meanwhile, we just use the CD we bought in 1998, and the online list for newer info.)

» I would buy the awards CD-ROM only if you took the awards guide off the web. I find CD-ROMs a clumsy reference format compared to (1) books and (2) web sites. (I have always-on connectivity at home and work, of course, which affects my feelings here.)

» How about a CD-ROM compilation of stuff from the Locus Polls? (You could include short fiction, representative art from the most popular artists, reviews or comments on novels, collections, etc.)

» If you sold the Index to Awards on a CD-ROM, I'd buy it if it was more cross-indexed than it is currently (e.g., you'd have to be able to click on the story name, for example, and get a listing of where that story has been reprinted).

» I plan to buy Locus in print at least 2 or 3 times a year, and I expect something in each issue that's not available online. I would buy CD-ROM's, but I'd prefer them to be in HTML or XML, so I can read them with a good browser rather than Word or some crude DOS tool.

» I do like the Mystery Index, but I find that even in the area where it is supposed to be the most comprehensive, that there are some frustrating omissions. I also like the fact that this index has been restored to fuller functioning.

» I wanted to answer the CD-ROM complete Locus book reviews with "maybe". Same answer to SF awards CD-ROM.

Response: Obviously we need to make the incentives to buy the CD ROM of the Locus Index to SF more clear. Yes, there are indexes on the web, but they are being updated only as separate yearly indexes (1999, 2000). On the CD ROM, all the data from 1984 through 2000 are merged -- furthermore, they are merged with the 'Index to Anthologies and Collections' that includes books prior to 1984. And there are features on the CD ROM not available in the web indexes: chronological sorts under each author, for example. As for the purchase price, after you've bought a CD ROM once, you get a discount on later updates. [Specifically: 50% off the current year if you bought the previous year's index; 25% if you bought the index 2 years before. You have to submit the title insert from the CD case with the order to qualify.] The ''Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards'' (which includes the Locus Poll results) will work similarly; most information on the web, but with additional features on the CD ROM. (As for the clumsiness of CD ROMs: just copy all the files into a folder on your hard drive, and bookmark that. The ''Locus Index'' is about 130 MB, not large compared to the size of current hard drives.) CD ROMs of other material from Locus Magazine are in work, including an archive of book and short fiction reviews -- in HTML.

What people like

» Like the currency of news about SFF, like the list of books coming out, the links to other publications' reviews of genre books, the links to e-zines, like the immediacy of finding out about awards.

» I really enjoy essays and commentary about both the history and current trends in SF. For example, I remember a link to a John Clute commentary recently that was very interesting because it was a comment on SF by an expert in literary SF. Although I enjoy the links to the e-publications that comment on SF from a popular point of view, I would like to see more self-assessment from the SF field itself.

In a related matter, I enjoy the book reviews in Locus magazine, and I think it would be great to be able to access a review archive online. However, sometimes I find them a little frustrating because they are designed to be read by people who have not yet read the book, and they also serve the purpose of promoting the books, to some extent. I know that there are scholarly journals, and perhaps other news magazines, that offer scholarly criticism and essays about current trends and themes of SF, but I would like to see more of that in Locus and Locus Online.

» You do a tremendous job.

» I find the indexes to old Locus issues invaluable. After reading a book, I'll usually go back and read the Locus reviews, and it's nice to be able to locate them.

» I like your site's emphasis on printed SF. There are plenty of sites like Sci Fi Weekly that deal with the increasing glut of mostly mediocre media SF.

» Keep up the marvelous work in general!

» Your portal page rules. It's one of the best I've seen.

» I can't tell you enough how often I use the Locus database and in particular the awards database. Nothing else on-line comes even close to it in comprehensiveness (especially since the ISFDB hasn't been updated or corrected in two years).

» I think you all do a great job with the magazine and on-line. I don't hit the sites on-line that overlap w/my subscription.

» I enjoy the new books and reviews. A nice supplement to the monthly mag.

» The editor does an outstanding job.

» BTW, I really enjoyed last year's movie summation; the close agreement with my own tastes was gratifying, and it pointed out some gems I had missed.

» As a Locus subscriber, I view Locus Online as an additional benefit to my subscription. I think both online and print material are valuable. Web links to other resources (e.g. Field Inspections, Portal) are more useful in Locus Online. But the print version is more convenient to use, and not as hard on the eyes to read.

» Your coverage of news and web-links is already indispensable. Your new site on awards is particularly commendable. The only improvement for the print edition -- more critical book reviews (i.e. ones that discuss the book within some larger context, rather than a mere summary of the book). Wolfe does a good job at this; the other reviewers often less so. I would subscribe (both in print and on line) if more of these were available. Then again, I find your web site so valuable that I would gladly contribute some small payment to use it even as it is now.

» Locus Online is an excellent site. The portal has been extremely valuable to me over the last few years. I use it almost every day when trying to find something on the web.

» I like the lot of it, of course would love to see more 'meat' - reviews of long & short fiction etc. But what you have is probably my personal favorite website, at the very least of SF related material. I read it daily and find a lot of enjoyable and informative material within. Thanks.

» Being in the publishing biz I do get a lot of non-SF news (PW Daily e.g.). As a small press publisher & bookseller at conventions I find the new/just released books of interest to be quite useful. I primarily use the Online version for instant gratification for news.

» I like the online version for what it can better than the printed version: faster news. I like the printed version because I can flip through at my leisure - I guess I'm not that crazy about reading the entire contents of an issue online, just an old fart I guess. I do like having the indexes, and other non-fiction material as a searchable database etc; again this is the small press publisher & bookseller speaking.

» I like the Online version for the immediacy of news & information; you do a great job in what spare time you have.

» The website is a very valuable tool to me. It does a very good job of covering the field, and I still feel that it is the best SF site on the internet. I can't tell you how many times I've first found out about a new book through the website, and the portal page is wonderful. It has become my gateway to the internet. Thanks for the hard work you do at the website. It is very much appreciated and I don't let you guys know that nearly often enough.

» I think LO is great. I check it frequently and it makes me feel more connected to the scene than some of my professional affiliations.

Response: Thank you all very much.

Ideas for new sections/content

» Reviews of SF websites.

» A list of SFF books for the year in tabular format (downloadable?) in order of publication that I can use as a reading list for Hugo nominations.

» What I'd really like to see added is an archive of short fiction reviews. I know. It's a huge task with lots of titles and cross-referencing. I wouldn't want publishing information just review referenced by author or title. However, after reading a collection or anthology, it would be nice to go back and know exactly what issue, if any, of Locus each story was reviewed in. I'd pay for that service on CD-ROM or online.

» Pay a little more attention to mass market books, since that's what most of us can afford to buy!

» Expanded SF&F Art Column.

» Remarks on this section: I would really, really like an index of book reviews in SFFH genre magazines so that I could be sure I didn't miss any that were about me.

» Brief, 'blog-ish coverage of other SFFH sites would be great.

» I find the print editions ads very helpful & useful (as both a reader and a bookseller). How about putting those on the web? Since they're usually graphics-heavy, they might be slow-loading; but maybe you could just put text+thumbnails on the main pages.

» *Most* interested in the archive of older reviews!

» Coverage/listing of criticism - books, articles, sites, etc. - in the science fiction field.

» I enjoy the daily updates, but would like to see more coverage of the SF magazines.

» Convention listings, especially those with major and minor awards.

» A monthly calendar of events, publications, movie and video releases, and TV program debuts and finales.

» You could invite guest commentary from SF/F/H authors.

Response: A couple of these we already do, more or less: convention listings (and the Calendar page) do indicate when major awards are coming up; the cumulative 2000 books listings, though not exhaustive, should serve as a checklist for Hugo reading. We are still coming up to speed on updating the E-publications page weekly; perhaps a weblog format would be more suitable for that coverage. The combined monthly calendar is an interesting idea, but the TV programs part is beyond our capacity and interest (suggest it to, perhaps). We can't reproduce the ads from the magazine, but -- advertisers note -- we're happy to see interest from readers in such ads. Thanks for all the ideas; we'll keep them in mind.

Next page: Why We Asked

© 2000 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.