Having not been spared from Washington State University’s recent budget woes, we can think of no other way to absorb our share of the cuts than to drop one issue of the printed Washington State Magazine.

Now, before I go on, let me make a few quick points: 1) Don’t worry, I’m not asking for money; 2) I don’t see us dropping another issue anytime soon; and 3) Even though the budget cuts are permanent, we hope to restore that fourth print issue somehow.

There being no point in whining about the matter, we’re determined to approach that reduction as an opportunity. We will, in fact, be publishing a fourth issue this year, but it will be digital. And we need your thoughts on the matter.

In spite of our grounding in print, we appreciate that the Web can do many things a print magazine cannot. It’s a marvelous supplement. The Web, we hope you have already realized, provides us with many possibilities, including video, slideshows, and interactive mapping, to complement and enhance the print Washington State Magazine.

Even so, we like print and have no intention of giving it up. Not before I retire, anyway. Call us stubborn, if you will. But for those of us raised on print, paper offers an aesthetic experience that a computer screen cannot match. Print is tactile and tangible. It fits on the coffee table much more nicely than a computer.

The only problem with print is the cost. One issue of Washington State Magazine, including mailing, costs well over $100,000. In comparison, Web-based publishing is obviously not free. Besides the necessary infrastructure, both on our end and yours, Web publishing requires just as much staff time as print. Still, what it avoids is the expensive combination of paper, ink, skill, and printing press required to produce a magazine you can hold in your hand.

So I’ll get to the point. The Summer 2010 issue of Washington State Magazine will appear only on the Web. It will closely resemble the current issues on the Web, including a PDF version in print layout. But it will also include some enhancements. For one, we’ll be introducing “My Story,” a mirror of “Our Story.” Whereas “Our Story” is about the Washington State experience, “My Story” will be a chance for you to share your experience after graduation. Like Class Notes, without the space restriction.

Between now and then, we will be prepping you for our great adventure. We will also be surveying, both before and after. But it all comes down to one fundamental question: Will you, when notified by postcard that the Summer 2010 issue of Washington State Magazine has gone live at magazine.wsu.edu, fire up your computer and read the magazine online with the same attention and eagerness as you read the print version?

Frankly, we have mixed feelings about the outcome. But we need to know exactly where you, our readers, stand on the very interesting—and unsettling—evolution of publishing.

Tim Steury, Editor