UPDATE June 2015: We have settled on a software system for this, and hope to have it running, tested, and pretty much refined in the very near future.
We beg your knowledgeable advice:
What is a good, reliable system to sell PDFs?
If you know, please tell us!
OUR MAGAZINE’S IMPROBABLE FUTURE: PDFs will replace paper.
We are going to gradually (no rush!) phase out the paper version of the magazine — the Annals of Improbable Research — and replace it with PDFs.
Our technical requirements are listed below.
We identified some promising systems, and are working to determine which is likely best for this task.
WHY WE ARE DOING THIS.
We are good at producing a magazine full of research that makes people LAUGH then THINK. But we are tiny, and we are not very good at handling the maddening mechanics of paper subscriptions — dealing with the ever-increasing vaguaries, complexities and breakdowns of the world’s postal systems, subscription agencies, etc. — those things have been driving us (and some of you, our ever-patient, beloved subscribers) nuts.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR EVERYONE.
The price of buying a year’s subscription will go way down. And(!) you will be able to easily, cheaply obtain any or all of the back issues. There are more than 120 back issues —six timelessly improbable issues from every year since 1995! See all of them listed at <http://www.improbable.com/magazine/>
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR CURRENT SUBSCRIBERS.
We intend to keep producing the paper version for a while, while we find and test a truly good way to sell the PDF version. After we have a good PDF-sales system in place, and have seen that it really does work well, we will present some nice options to everyone who is subscribing to the paper version.
OUR TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS.
Here’s what we want the PDF sales system to do.
1A. It should be EASY and QUICK for a customer to buy and download any ONE magazine issue.
1B. It should be EASY and QUICK for a customer to buy and download ALL the issues from a particular calendar year (1995 or 1996 or 1997… or 2014 or 2015).
2. We do NOT want to copy-protect the files.
3. We DO want each downloaded PDF to be “PDF stamped” (every page includes some text that identifies the person who bought it).
BACKGROUND: Things we have tried, that failed.
1. Amazon and iTunes.
Ideally, we would sell the PDFs through the two biggest, easy-to-use online stores: Amazon.com and iTunes.
But Amazon and iTunes refuse to sell PDFs.
Damn, damn, damn.
2. Ebooks (EPUB files).
We have tried selling EPUB versions of the magazine, on Amazon, iTunes, and elsewhere. But EPUBs and nicely formatted magazines, as a combination, are a complicated can-of-worms. Buy us a beer and we’ll tell you all about that. We might some day make additional EPUBs, but not in the very near future.
We have, for some time now, been offering some back issues as PDFs, via E-junkie. E-junkie has its virtues, BUT… E-junkie does not have any good way to handle subscriptions.
UPDATE (May 2015): Thank you to the many people who gave us suggestions, and who in many cases related their own experiences with particular vendors. We identified several promising systems, then quickly narrowed the field to two strong candidates, one of which demonstrated itself to be — for our needs — much the better. The decision was easy to make, based on both (a) the the capabilities of the two systems and (b) the responsiveness and jargon levels of the vendors. We hope to have our new PDF system tested and operating by late-summer or early autumn (North American summer/autumn, that is).