Ah yes. The brick that is the new edition of Gardner Dozois’ YEAR’S BEST SF sits on the desk next to me. Containing, as ever, its fascinating Summation of the year in question: 2009. Which includes sales and circulation figures on SF magazines.
I’ve been posting these numbers annually for a few years now. Longtime readers will recall that they tend to illustrate the creeping death of the SF print fiction magazine. In some years, it’s not so creeping, either.
I was particularly interested in this year’s numbers, though, because 2009 was the year of the Kindle, and of ever wider iPhone use. And these magazines have, to varying degrees, awoken to the possibilities of the ereader and ebooks.
THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION notches a 3.4% loss in overall circulation, from 16044 to 15491, its newsstand sales going from 12374 to 12045 and subscriptions falling from 3670 to 3446. That’s about 550 missing readers, a little more than it lost last year. No word on electronic sales.
ASIMOV’S logs a 2.4% loss in overall circulation, from 17102 to 16696. Newsstand dropped from 3260 to 2965, and subscriptions from 13842 to 13731. Dozois appends a rumoured additional number of "about three thousand" buying ASIMOV’S through ereaders. If true, that more than makes up for the 400-odd bodies they lost on the print side.
And if these ebook figures make it to the light of day, they’ll be the story. If I were to speculate, I’d say the e-version of ASIMOV’S is likely to be picking up lapsed print subscribers from years past rather than brand new readers. But what the hell: if they added about three thousand a month in e-sales, then ASIMOV’S circulation went up for the first time in years.
It does, however, create an interesting problem for ANALOG and ASIMOV’S, as they are owned by Dell Magazines, who specialise in cheap pulp puzzle booklets. If ANALOG and ASIMOV’S print sales elide or migrate to the point where there’s no reason to print them on trees anymore… why would Dell keep them on?
ANALOG posts a 2.2% loss in overall circulation, from 25999 to 25418. Subscriptions went from 21880 to 21 636, newsstand going from 4119 to 3782. That’s 581 people going missing. Note how weirdly consistent these numbers are.
So consistent, in fact, that I wonder what the ebook numbers are for ANALOG and F&SF. If ASIMOV’S — the kindest thing I can say about which is that I don’t find it quite as terrible as ANALOG — is indeed moving around 3000 electronic editions a month, it’s not a stretch to assume the more popular ANALOG is doing the same. And since their numbers are generally consonant, you might wonder if the electronic F&SF isn’t in the ballpark too.
Which would in fact mean that the ugly buggers might all have posted increases in circulation.
If there’s anyone with a sense of PR at any of these magazines, I might suggest it may be a smart move to actually publish your e-sales numbers. Success attracts success: if you look like you’re killing it in the ereader market, people with cash money in their pockets are going to come and take a look, and advertisers will peer at you with new interest. In these days of the long tail and niche culture, having access to even three thousand Kindles or iPhones is not unattractive.
Note that in 2009 ANALOG and ASIMOV’S changed to more economical formats and F&SF went bimonthly.
Dozois pegs INTERZONE’s circulation at "the three thousand copy range," which he says every year. This now begins to smack of simply not knowing what their circulation is, as the likelihood of it not having changed in five years is, um, a little remote. In addition to that, the INTERZONE message board indicates they’ve been proactive about electronic editions for some while.
WEIRD TALES is believed to have a circulation of around 5000.
My thanks to Mr Dozois for his hard work, and my apologies for lifting all that heavy diligence for a poxy blog post.