Announcing the e-book version of the Annals of Improbable Research

We are now publishing each issue of our magazine — the Annals of Improbable Research — as an e-book, as well as on paper. We think our little invention is a big deal for anyone who publishes magazines — and for anyone who reads them.

We invite you to download a free e-book issue of the Annals of Improbable Research! If you like it, there are lots more back issues.

Until now, no —not any!— magazines have been available as standard e-books. That’s a big problem. We invented a simple way to solve that problem. Below, I  explain (A) the problem; and (B) how we solved it.

The Problem: Magazines are not available as e-books

For most nicely formatted publications — hello, magazines! — e-book versions have until now been impractical-to-impossible. Yes, some magazines are available in digital form — but, as far as we are aware:

  1. You can read those magazines only by using a special app — each magazine needs its own special app.
  2. You can read them on only a few, particular devices.
  3. They are uncomfortable-to-intolerable to read on a tiny screen (such as a mobile phone).

What We Invented: How to make a magazine into a standard e-book (for tiny & big screens)

We wanted to make our magazine issues into standard e-books comfortable to read on a tiny screen (such as a mobile phone), as well as on a big screen. If you have ever tried to read a nicely formatted document (a PDF, for example) on a mobile phone, you know that it’s excruciatingly awkward to navigate your way through a page.

That’s why we invented a special format. Each of our e-books contains TWO copies of the magazine, each with the same content. The first copy is formatted in a simple, small-screen-friendly way. The second copy shows the same issue of the magazine, but formatted in full glory, exactly as it appears in the print edition.

This two-in-one format is just a wee, little innovation. But it solves the problem of how to make a magazine (or any publication that has a complex layout) that people can get and read as a standard e-book.

Using this format, we can take an issue of our magazine, and produce an e-book version that’s available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble and elsewhere. This e-book version is comfortable to read on any device that handles standard e-books — comfy on tiny screens and big screens.


Here at Improbable Research, Lauren Maurer did most of the hard, careful, often-frustrating work of turning the concept into the actual e-books. Geri Sullivan contributed a helping of her famous design expertise and wisdom.

Many people helped us, especially in learning about many of the undocumented quirks of the Kindle, the Nook, and other e-book readers, and finding many equally-bedeviling quirks of the various online e-bookstores. I’d like to mention a special few individuals who knowledgably, kindly, patiently helped in a big way: Ben Biggs, David Foulser at Google; Ros Reid at Harvard SEAS; and Sara Montgomery and Nick Sidwell at The Guardian.

Please Spread the Word

There’s a tremendous amount of published, richly-formatted material — magazines and lots more — that until now has been un-offerable and unobtainable in a comfortable digital form. Please help us spread the word to other publishers that they, too, can make make their magazines (and whatnot) into e-books.

8 Responses to “Announcing the e-book version of the Annals of Improbable Research”

  1. Gene Scharmann Says:

    Thanks for the e-mag.
    Works like a charm on my Samsung Galaxy SIII with ‘MoonReader’.
    Just wondered why the size of the .epub file is SOOOOOO very large (20MB) vs. ca. 30KB for other ebooks. (Photos? No Compression?)
    It won’t stop me from reading this way, but I’m curious.

    The other problem I have is when reading a paper book or magazine why do I keep trying to click on underlined words? :)

  2. Arfnotz Says:

    I had an e subscription to Science News but fond it unusable on a Kindle as you couldn’t easily flip around and get past the cruft of ads and headers. Looking forward to tryinthis on my upcoming trip.

  3. World’s Strangest | The Annals of Improbable Research in eBook Form Says:

    […] The electronic version is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but you can try out a free issue first by downloading it from Improbable Research. Link […]

  4. Rickey Jones Says:

    This is very nice approaching, I use to read books on regular basis, but sometimes it cant be possible to me to take books with me, but I can read e-books in my i-phone also, and I believe that is the reason of increasing E-book readers now a days.

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