Monday, September 15, 2008

Is the Napster of the Magazine World?

A friend of mine sent me an email in which he heaped praises on a website he had found called, a site where users can upload, share, and archive magazines. According to the's website:
Mygazines is a place to browse, share, archive and customize unlimited magazine articles uploaded by you, the Mygazines community. We at Mygazines take great pride in providing a platform for people and businesses to share articles and magazines in an interactive and fun format. Mygazines is not just for magazines - you can upload catalogues and product brochures too! So don't hesitate - start sharing - it's free!
I took a closer look at and saw that users had actually scanned entire magazines and had uploaded them to the website where other users could easily search, find, and read popular magazines within a slick Flash-based viewer. Immediately, I was struck by two things:

1) reminds of Napster, the on/off again notorious mp3 sharing site that single-handily transformed the way music publishers and musicians distribute their artistic work and, in turn, inadvertently gave birth to legal music download services such as iTunes. With magazine and newspaper publishers scrambling to secure readership in this digital age, I sense could be the 'Napster' that they need. I defend this view with the second thing that struck me:'s simple and intuitive viewer.

2) While the website is still in beta, and in some parts, particularly search performance, the beta label really shows, I am nonetheless impressed by the Flash-based viewer. The Flash-based viewer is very intuitive with a clean navigation bar set on top featuring such tools as comment, favorite, email to friend, and social bookmarking in addition to stardard page turning and searching features.

As I flipped trough the magazines, using the keyboard's cursor keys and "z" to zoom in, I thought about the digitization work I had done--that we as a community have done--and wondered if we were delivering our scanned content in a simple and intuitive manner?

Personally, I have scanned historical photographs of all sizes, scanned and indexed textual documents, but rarely have I felt I had given the end-user (i.e. the expert researcher, the novice researcher, and everyone in between) a satisfactory tool to comfortably read and enjoy the hard work I had put in digitizing these materials.

Since we are scanning photographs, let's give the end user the feeling of fliping through a digital photo album. Since we are scanning text, let's give the end user the feeling of reading a book or report. Maybe those viewing tools already exist (and maybe I am showing my ignorance) but I am far too familiar with sites employing static jpeg image scans that are fine but cumbersome.

Now I am no copyright expert, but I am also no dummy. There is clearly something fishy (i.e. illegal, wrong) with and its user base scanning magazines in their entirety and uploading them for others to view for free.

Again, reminds me of Napster - but look what Napster did for the music industry. is clearly breaking some rules, but I noticed it is extending its hand to the publishing industry, perhaps in an effort to legitimize its service.

What's your take on Check it out and let me know.

UPDATE 09/16: Read the press release on's launch.

UPDATE 12/22: is closed. Must have happened a few weeks ago.


Flutterby said...

Ya, they deserved to be shut down. The strange thing is most magazines have already put their content online for free anyway. You can just go to instead. They have links to thousands of legitimate, free, online magazines there.

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about the author

I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.

I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.

I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.