As anyone who’s ever rolled out a new technology can tell you, early user reaction—no matter how positive overall—is likely to contain a certain amount of feedback to the effect of: “I’m an old dog, and this is a new trick.”
Those were the words of one of the more than 1,300 CAP TODAY readers who responded to a survey soliciting their opinion of the digital edition of the magazine, which was introduced last fall. Conducted in October 2009 and April of this year, the survey asked readers to rate several aspects of the digital edition, such as the user’s ability to link to Web and e-mail addresses, download and save articles, and forward articles to friends and colleagues.
The survey’s respondents not only provided helpful feedback about the digital edition but also raised money for several charities. CAP TODAY donated $1 per respondent, for a total of $1,361, to a choice of four groups: ASPCA, Ronald McDonald House, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, or Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Some users, like the “old-dog-new-trick” respondent, expressed hesitation at the prospect of adjusting to an electronic format. “Too early to tell,” one reader wrote. “Stick to paper,” said another. Overall, though, the response skewed positive. Almost 60 percent of respondents to the question “Overall, what is your impression [of the digital edition]?” answered “Fantastic, this is the future,” with only about 13 percent indicating a preference for the paper version. (The rest answered “neutral for now.”) And for every “Did not care for it” or “It’s next to worthless” or “Not readable” comment, there were multiple “Very cools!” “Awesomes!” and “Way to go’s!”
Because the survey took place over several months, readers had the option of using the digital edition for some time before responding to the survey. That was especially important given that slightly more than half (56 percent) of respondents reported they had not seen a digital magazine on their computers before and so were presumably unfamiliar at first with the navigational methods required to use it.
But many users found that a little practice paid off, as survey comments such as this one reflect: “I’ve been reviewing the electronic copy for several months. I didn’t like it at first. Found it hard to navigate. But then I learned a few of the tricks with the software, and now I like the electronic version a lot. I hope other users stick with it, and they too will probably grow to like it as I have.”
The survey results indicated, too, that many users appreciate the ability to share articles easily with others. “As an educator, I like the fact that if there is something of interest for students, it is so easy to make it available to them,” wrote one. “I do still work the bench, and [I] like the easy accessibility to CAP TODAY, not having to take the time to go to my desk, find the magazine, then the article that I need, [go] back to the department, etc. It is right there on my computer.”
Of course, some people simply prefer not to spend any more time in front of a computer than necessary. “I just prefer reading something in paper,” one respondent wrote. “I spend enough time looking at a computer screen all day!”
Some commenters asked if it was possible to opt out of the paper edition of CAP TODAY and subscribe to the digital edition only. That’s not an option, as the digital edition is intended to complement, not replace, the paper version, by offering bonus features such as the ability to save articles and perform searches.
Readers who have experienced difficulty accessing the digital edition may wish to check the speed of their Internet connection, or to find out if their organization has a firewall that’s hampering access. They may also wish to make sure they are using one of the several supported Internet browsers. For the PC, those consist of Internet Explorer version 6, 7, or 8, or Firefox version 2 or 3. For the Mac, those consist of Safari version 3 or 4, or Firefox version 2 or 3. Note, too, that your computer must be running Flash version 9 or later.
Another tip, this one to any readers who may be having difficulty navigating a tabloid-sized magazine on a computer screen: Double-clicking on any article will bring up a separate text box that contains the entire article in larger type.
If you have comments or questions about the digital edition, please e-mail them to CAP TODAY editorial/production associate Mary Lindsay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anne Ford is a writer in Evanston, Ill.