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Feature Letter: How do you read Eureka Street?

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This very thoughtful letter raises some interesting questions. As editors, we are keen to know what you think - send your responses in, and put them in the 'comment' box below. We are always looking for ways to improve your 'Eureka Moment'. - the Eds.

Hullo, Editors,

Probably an obsession, but I'm still working out how to get the best out of Eureka Street in its online form.

Unlike hard copy it doesn't sit there for you. You have to rub the Aladdin's lamp each time. Somehow there is a feeling, i.e. I, at least, have a feeling, that this is less 'substantial' than print, that it's OK to skim it, that's it more of a mood machine than an informative medium. This is probably all due to my age and stage.


I enjoyed in this latest issue the article on Islam, and its varieties of view; the Indonesian one was good, too. Why? Partly new names and information. However, here's a question: would others share my desire for some media savvy equivalent of footnotes? For prompts as to where one could follow this or that up, guides through the jungle of literature available, people or groups to contact. In this way Eureka St could be a compass for us lost travellers, or more humbly be a bit of a road map at least.

I don't get much, personally, from the smaller blips on the screen. The review on the Guantanamo film for example was too short to take me anywhere. And would I be wrong that writers sometimes spend too long rehearsing pretty well known stuff? I have no idea of the profile of the average Eureka reader, but suspect they are pretty clued up.

Living outside Oz now I would appreciate some more ecclesiastical material. There's very little on what's happening in dioceses, or parishes, or in ecumenical debate, or in theology. (Apart from the good ethics stuff) Maybe that's all catered for elsewhere. But I suspect the Eureka 'blik' would be a different one.

How do others 'read' online, to return to the original question. I'd be interested to know. I'd love to have some handy hints for new converts to online traffic.

Peter Matheson.

 

 

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Existing comments

Great letter...

I know this isn't possible for everyone, and I know my husband would probably hate it but for the fact that he does the same thing - but I read in bed on the laptop. My favorite position is to lie on my side and scoop the laptop into my arms sort of like a book, with my head propped up by a couple of pillows. I have quite a few websites that I read regularly like this, and although I suppose it takes some getting used to, it can be quite addictive being lead from link to link. A great thing to do is to go to Wikipedia.com and let the articles arbitrarily lead you to other articles.

I can imagine that it's a hard thing to get right, too, the length of articles - too long, and nobody will read to the end on the computer screen. Too short, and not enough can be said to make it worth reading. I often find that about a thousand words or so is a good length, which I suspect most of the ES articles subscribe to.
Aurora Lowe | 16 November 2006


I thought this was a wonderful letter, and well worth putting up on the site. Peter asks a number of good questions.
The point made about the need to 'rub the lamp'as it were - it's true - the online medium, while easier to access, on the surface, might actually need more work sometimes to 'bite' into.

As for the second point, about 'media savvy footnotes' - there are a couple I can make, right off the bat.

Some of the features of the new-format ES get overlooked. Interactivity is the first of them.

When a letter comes in, we can publish it immediately - as yours proves, Peter - and invite responses immediately. The feedback between a magazine's audience, and it's writers and editors is crucial - but being able to respond quickly, to fix problems after publication - this is a great advantage. If you have trouble with something on the site, let us know - eureka@eurekastreet.com.au.

The second point I would make is that, for people who want a more print-like experience, read the PDF.It is available to subscribers only, but I can offer a peak at it here - Vol 16. No. 17

Especially when printed, the PDF is for some people a more 'readable' experience.

The other points to make are perhaps more minor - but important.

Remember that it is possible to increase the font size on the screen.

You will notice that every article has, in the top right corner, a printer icon, and two 'A's - clicking the As will increase and decrease the size of the font.

The images we use on the site are perhaps something that escape people's notice. We take care with our images, and they are chosen very carefully.

Readers might have noticed that the larger version of Chris Johnston's cartoons are always available - if you can't make out the detail in a cartoon, simply click the image to see a larger version.

Similarly, the images that we use which are 'screenshots' have been chosen carefully, and will lead you through to another article or website with information pertaining to the article - so those of you who want to read more should have no trouble finding further reading.

Finally, to the point Peter makes about the short film reviews and about ecclesiastical articles.

We have taken a decision to publish shorter reviews after the first edition or two, because we thought that film reviews lend themselves to shorter, sharper analyses - what do other readers think?

Secondly, with ecclesiastical articles, this is not traditionally the focus of Eureka Street - but we are happy to take this idea on board.

Would you, our readers, like to see more articles like this on the site?

Send us your thoughts - leave a comment here, or mail letters@eurekastreet.com.au




James Massola | 16 November 2006


Another editor's response:

Peter's right. It doesn't sit there for you. The web is a transient medium. It works better for people with a short attention span. We're not here to make a judgment about whether a short attention span is a good thing or a bad thing. It is a fact of life that an increasing number of people embrace more ideas at less depth.

When Peter asks for the media savvy equivalent of footnotes, he's asking for links, which are there in most of the articles. Many of the links are behind the images and screenshots of other pages.

In a way we're comfortable with brief articles and reviews, such as the Guantanamo film Peter refers to. But we're not comfortable that he our writers are 'rehearsing pretty well known stuff'. Eureka Street was known for its 'degree of difference', and that is something we are striving to maintain at Eureka Street online.
Michael Mullins | 16 November 2006


I always print out the PDF version. However, the disappointing part of that is that it is pictureless, & Eureka Street has always had beautiful photo stories.

Scott Hartley | 21 November 2006


I really like Eureka Street, but I subscribed without realising it had gone online. I hate having to read it on the screen or print it out. I want to be able to thumb through the magazine while commuting, reading bits and pieces at different times. I will not be continuing my subscription while it remains online.
Caroline | 21 November 2006


In the old paper version, the crossword was the first thing I'd turn to. It doesn't seem to appear in the on-line version.
Richard | 21 November 2006


Thank you for this opportunity to comment. I am old, deaf, hope not cranky, but the emag is a great disappointment to me. I may be wrong but old favourite authors appear to be missing. I cannt be sure because, so far, I have not been able to print a copy since the change-over.
With best wishes.
Bill Dowsley | 21 November 2006


Yes, I too find it difficult to read Eureka Street (and other internet publications) with the same attention as I would hard copy. It is much easier to be superficial, much too easy to skip-read or page-jump, and it seems environmentally indefensible to print out pages of the stuff - which I still won't read properly, because it presents itself to me as computer print-out I do appreciate the reasons for the electronic format, but I find it much less rewarding. Maybe younger readers will read differently, but watching them I have to conclude that many of them also read less thoroughly from screen-based material.
frances clancy | 21 November 2006


IN REPLY TO SCOTT:
The PDF of each edition does have pictures inside it. Which issues are you printing out? The pictures are reduced in size, so that the PDF file is not too large -- but we could consider a larger picture format version - that would not be too difficult. What do other people think?

IN REPLY TO CAROLINE:

I am pleased that you really like Eureka Street, and saddened that you havereservations about the online format. You are of course not the only person to have expressed these reservations, and I do understand that the online format does not suit everyone.

What I would say to you, Caroline, is persevere. Give the new format time to grow on you. The quality of the magazine is steadily improving, the PDF is of a high standard for offline reading, and printing, and the impact of our articles is growing.

The new format of Eureka Street is, on the whole, working - if only we could persuade good people such as yourself to stick with us, then we could say that everything is moving in the right direction.

I can't make you read the magazine - but I can say don't lose faith in us.

IN REPLY TO RICHARD:

We are investigating ways to get the crossword back, so that it can be played out online, or printed off and completed at your leisure.

IN REPLY TO BILL:

Which Authors are you specifically referring to Bill? Thus far, we have kept Brian Doyle, Frank Brennan,Brian Matthews,Morag Fraser,Tim Thwaites, Jack Waterford,Anthony Ham and others onboard. Is there someone in particular you would like to see back in ES? Let us know.

As for the printing issues, send me an email - james.massola@eurekastreet.com.au - outlining what the problem is, because printing from the PDF should be very straight forward. I look forward to hearing from you.

IN REPLY TO FRANCES:

I'm not sure what the solution to your attention wandering when reading online might be. That one is a bit beyond the skill of an editor - I obviously spend a lot of time reading online, and don't have much a of a problem (though I do like to feel the pages of a book in my fingers.)

As for the environmental impact of printing the edition - which is worse - 35 pages of basic white paper, low grade ink - or 65 pages (1xprint issue = 2x online issues) of glossy (-ish), treated, highly manufactured, expensive paper that may or may not be sold and read, and which is more difficult to recycle?

In this regard, reading online, or printing off to a4, is definitely friendlier to the environment, and is the way of the future, I feel - though that is a personal opinion, and does not apply to books, only newspapers and magazines.
James Massola | 21 November 2006


I think this is a good site, but I would suggest that what you are lacking is another menu bar. There seems to be a shortage of navigation options - The Guardian is a good example of an easily navigable website - have you thought about adding more buttons?
Thomas T. | 21 November 2006


I am a former subscriber and now sometime reader I have a comment to make. I was sceptical about the move online and let my subscription lapse.

I don't read all the articles that are on the site when it is up for a couple of reasons - 1. - I don't think the internet lends itself well to sustained periods of reading, ie, the 15 or so articles you publish each 2 weeks. However, I did find that I enjoyed browsing through the archives and finding 'gold' that I had missed.

I am sad that the so much of the archive now seems to be locked. I may even have to re-subscribe.
Leon Sullivan | 21 November 2006


James, Thank you for your email and the reply. This must be a plus for the new format in that we may contact you so easily and be answered with such courtesy.
There is no doubt my problems with the emag are in myself. Even today, I have found it a little easier to navigate but, still, cannot print. I shall accept your invitaion to email you if I do no better next week.As you have encouraged another correspondent to do, I shall persevere.
Too, you have caught me out regarding the authors. Now, the only one I can see missing is my personal favourite, Juliette Hughes. Excuse me, but a good wife and mother has much more of value to tell us than many.
Thank you again, Bill.
Bill Dowsley | 21 November 2006


Like Caroline, I used to read Eureka Street on the train (and in various places around the house). I endorse the comments of other readers about the 'skimming' nature of reading online. I know there are advantages too--the possibility of following through a theme or an author through links, for example. But for me, there is another issue: I find that a great deal of my work involves sitting in front of a computer screen, and I am increasingly trying to find ways of getting away from it. I do have good intentions of printing out the PDF, but often I don't get round to it.
Janice Pinder | 22 November 2006


I generally print it out so that (a) I can read it on the tram and (b) my wife can read it.
Ian Manning | 22 November 2006


Dear Team,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Eureka Street.

I read most articles each month and I print to hard copy. I find serious reading a little difficult to do on screen. Usually I copy and reformat to make the output smaller. I use the PDF file as an index page and check to see if the format is one page and if so, I print from there, otherwise I re-edit.

Thanks for your work=

Michael

michael.h | 22 November 2006


The best way to read Eureka Street is with a TABBED BROWSER people. Most people still use Internet Explorer - a few of them would have the new version, which has copied the tabs idea from FIREFOX.

Firefox is the best browser in the world - it has loads of good features, and is very secure.

What I do with the Firefox browser - and this works brilliantly for just about any site where you want to read a few pages - is go to the homepage, hold control, then click on every article i want to read.

All the articles open in new windows, one after another - neat, simple, easy, and no more flicking back and forth and waiting for the page to load.
Joel | 23 November 2006


Yes! Firefox is excellent! The tabs really make things simpler for someone like me who can't work with a cluttered computer screen. The tabs mean that you can get to each article when you feel like it without have fifty billion windows open.
Marisa Pintado | 23 November 2006


A bit of everything-- I skim online, download longer articles for later
perusal, and print out things I want to share with friends or my discussion
group. The real disadvantage of online Eureka Street is that I can't keep
copies in our parish library. I can and do recommend it to friends. Lenore
C.
Lenore C | 24 November 2006


Dear Michael and James

I am wondering about how many people will down load Eureka, find a comfy chair, grab a vino, read and have conversations about the stories in this important magazine. I spend too much time computering as it is.

I do down load this magazine, however it does not have enough visual appeal for people to pick up from my coffee table.

The human story that goes with the older version; the postie, my excitement at receiving, being shared around, kids cutting out the pictures and a final resting place at the doctor’s surgery. Well maybe. I have a sister who borrows magazines from waiting rooms.

Just thought I’d share my Luddite view with you.

Jo D


Well done.



Best wishes and happy Xmas





Jo D | 01 December 2006


I am a fellow Luddite, who prefers the sanctity of hard print to the ephemeral light of the screen.

Nevertheless, I find the online version superbly well done: attractive, navigable, sane and sensible. So many other online mags variously shout at you, are plain ugly, are victims of having been embellished over time, till the whole thing looks Over The Top and ugly.

Well done, and thank you so much.

david james | 23 January 2007


I have only just received my first online edition and I'm trying to work out, like Peter Matheson, how to read it. I found the PDF file difficult because it kept jumping around and I didn't want to print out 32 pages. I decided to go back to the Index, see which articles I really wanted to read, and if I liked a particular article, I printed it out. I don't live outside Australia, in fact, I really live in the middle of nowhere, I do not have the average profile of a Eureka Street reader, because I have only just graduated to Eureka Street. I always thought it was much too difficult for me. It's not, maybe I've grown up? I would definitely like some more ecclesiastical material, & maybe some philosophical stuff?
wendy rowe | 06 February 2007


Am a new subscriber June 2007, and trawling thru the back online issues.. Brisbane Council libraries stopped subscribing, then I got ES at Cleveland library until it went online, and missed it so much that here I am paying for it and getting used to the e version. I won't be a curmudgeon and grumble about missing the print as it's a treat to gambol thru the poetry, the letters, the editorials etc at my leisure, to explore bios and pix of writers and to dialogue with others.
Thank you, ES staff for a thoughtful read.
Susie | 26 June 2007


I am a very new discoverer of this site
Currently an atheist but deeply interested in things spiritual
This is like an oasis in the desert for me. Not really interested in diocesan affairs or things strictly catholic ... just a broader view of issues in the world. Enjoy the format online but of course love the hands-on print for ruminating. Thank you.
Judy George | 18 March 2008


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