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Kalmbach should produce all of their MR back issues in PDF format Locked

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  • Member since
    September 2002
  • From: California & Maine
  • 3,848 posts
Posted by andrechapelon on Friday, January 5, 2007 12:37 AM
If it's such a good idea I suggest that some group approach Kalmbach with enough money to completely bankroll the project - distribution, legal, labor, everything - so that it has no risk but some reward for them but a good reward for the group.  If it's such a good idea, they shouldn't have too much problem raising the money, eh?

But, but .... that would mean taking a personal financial risk. That would mean putting one's own money where one's mouth is. That would mean really committing one's own resources to the project. We can't have that. It's up to Kalmbach to foot the bill and take the risk.Whistling [:-^]


It's really kind of hard to support your local hobby shop when the nearest hobby shop that's worth the name is a 150 mile roundtrip.
  • Member since
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Posted by rghammill on Friday, January 5, 2007 3:40 AM

Actually, they have started to do this already. The Information Station pdf downloads consist of older articles bundled together. Each download covers a particular theme. Granted, most of the articles are from the more recent magazines, but a few of them are from older ones. The reference material in the steam locomotive one seems to be from a while ago. I actually like this approach better to just reprinting the older magazines because it collects a lot of useful information about a given topic in one place.

Their special issues and books, while not in pdf form, also frequently represent older articles.

However, just scanning the magazines is not the best option in my opinion anyway. Some other magazines have done just that, and they are very difficult to read on a computer. I pretty much never use the electronic copies, and end up referring back to the regular old magazine.

They were designed as a print medium, and the mulitple columns, add placement, and articles that start at one point in the magazine and are completed near the end of the magazine make it difficult to read on a computer. A better option would be to reformat the original text and graphics for a more PC-friendly format (much like a web page). This is a very time-consuming process, however, and not likely to happen. It's easy to do with an electronic document (something written in Word, etc.) but not from scanning a paper document.

As for whether the older magazines are relevent-I've been picking up a lot of older issues after hunting through the various online indices. Usually I'm looking for a specific article, but usually find 2-3 that have some good information. Even if newer materials or techniques have rendered the information obsolete, it's still interesting to read how modelers worked within the limitations of the time. There are a lot of very creative solutions and ideas that are still very usable today, if not in the exact same application. 



  • Member since
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  • From: Colorado
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Posted by fwright on Friday, January 5, 2007 3:49 PM

A lot of interesting responses here.  I generally only visit the forums once a day, and don't post unless I think I have something different to offer.  So it was a different feeling to see others looking for my repsonse.

When I contact MR regarding digital issues, it was me taking advantage of Terry Thompson's asking me for more details about an LHS that was marking up MR to $6.95.  I decided it was my chance to give my opinion on other items as well - this was September 2005.  Included near the bottom of my opinions of things MR ought to do better was selling digital copies of old issues.  It wasn't a priority to me then, although my wife has been after me for years to slim down my collection of past issues.

That last sentence is the key that validates what Joe Fugate has been saying in this thread and in the thread on scratch-building articles (  Getting my back issue collection digitized has become a priority because I have come to agree with my wife that the magazine collection is no longer worth the cost of moving and storage.  The market for digital issues is just too small at present to justify the costs.  Digital copies of our magazine collections is not that important to most of us most of the time.  For the most part, we'd rather spend our precious hobby time and dollars creating our masterpiece and vision than reading old articles.  If these statements weren't true, most of us would spend a lot more time organizing and cataloging and preserving those back issues.  Before the Kalmbach online article database existed, there were several folks selling master indexes in the classified ads in MR.  Any guesses on how many were actually sold?  I didn't buy one, and neither did anybody else in the hobby I know.

No, MR never replied about selling digital back copies.  As I said, it was buried in my e-mail that was more concerned about present magazine content.  But I do believe that Kalmbach is watching this issue.  If they perceive the market for digital copies being at least break-even, I have no doubt, they (or a third party like me) would start the project.  As has been pointed out, Kalmbach's Dream, Plan, Build series has not been a rousing best seller.  Neither have the downloadable .pdfs, even with the video content.

Also, the loss of value (almost worthless now) of the existing printed back issues will prevent Kalmbach (or anybody else) from recouping their costs.  Fact is I will be able to replace the desirable parts of my printed collection at my new house for little more than the cost of shipping the magazines - pennies on the dollar compared to what back issues used to command.  Knowing this would certainly put a ceiling on what I am willing to pay for a DVD of the same content.

Andre, we're facing a similar situation in HOn3 locomotive production.  All the non-Colorado narrow gaugers (including me) are clamoring for a good Baldwin 4-4-0.  But how many sales does that clamoring really represent?  Enough to pay back the upfront investment plus interest?  How many are willing to contribute upfront to a project that will take several years to bring to fruition?  We have way too many model railroad manufacturers losing money producing what a few people said they wanted.  I certainly don't want to see Kalmbach losing money on its activities because it means a loss of services to the hobby (like this forum, like the product reviews, like the support for the NMRA, etc).

Finally, as Joe pointed out, only recent years of MR have been produced in digital format.  Digitizing and indexing are not yet automated processes unless you want to get a reputation for a poor product like the digital version of National Geographic.

again, just my thoughts - others think differently

  • Member since
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  • From: NJ
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Posted by jackn2mpu on Friday, January 5, 2007 3:51 PM
 jfugate wrote:
 jackn2mpu wrote:

Did Kalmbach ever give you a concrete reason why they won't go the pdf route? There has to be a reason they won't do it, and I for one would like to know that reason. That way, the posters who think it's pointless to discuss it (and you know who you are) along with the rest of us would know, and not speculate why. If you can't discuss it here, please email me off list.

I don't know what they said to Fred but they gave me their reasons when I asked them while discussing some other things a while back. They said they had no plans to put them into PDF form for distribution on CD because:

1. Since only recent years are available electronically, the vast bulk of the issues would need to be scanned page by page and indexed by hand. Way too much work and expense.

2. The global electronic republication of issues is fraught with legal headaches around contributor contracts. It's just not worth the hassle.

3. Because of the limited market size, cost would be prohibitive given all the manual effort and legal fees it would take to produce the issues in PDF form.

That was enough to convince me the answer was a firm no and there's little chance of changing their minds. 


Thank you very much for your posting of what they told you. As I said in a previous post in this thread, the ARRL (American Radio Relay League - an amateur radio organization) started putting out ALL their back issues on pdf some years back. I believe they started in the 1930's, so there are some real old issues that had to be scanned in. It can be done; just send it off-shore like everything else that's done nowadays. Indexing isn't that big of a problem either - it'll just take time.

The League went ahead with the pdf deal without knowing how many hams would buy into the electronic issues. And it's not like the ARRL had a lot of money to spread around either. But, we did it.

As to global contract issues, the ARRL publications have submissions from all over the world, so it can be done without breaking the back. Maybe Kalmbach should talk to the ARRL about how they went about the pdf issue. Contact info for the ARRL is:


225 Main Street

Newington, Connecticut 06111-1494


So, let's not think we're tilting at windmills here; rather, we're like the ant pushing on the rubber tree plant (remember he had success) and we could hopefully get Kalmbach to change it's mind. Also, like I said in a previous post, why doesn't Terry Thompson, who posts here from time to time, come on and publicly state his opinion on this.

de N2MPU Jack

Proud NRA Life Member and supporter of the 2nd. Amendment

God, guns, and rock and roll!

Modeling the NYC/NYNH&H in HO and CPRail/D&H in N

  • Member since
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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, January 5, 2007 4:02 PM

Tell me this:

If they had an article written, photgraphed and maybe a diagram or two in the classic method.

Put the said article into a magazine for publication in... say... 1940.

There are copies of 1940 here and there, not everyone will have it. What then is the problem of reproducing the 1940 issue in it's entirety (Just the legal issues that keeps being mentioned) and making it availible for people who wish to have it.

To me doing business on the Internet with back issues in digital form is no different than the old back issues resales with dwindling stocks of the magazine. It is just that the Internet is Global and certainly the person (Publisher) in 1940 would LOVE to have had that exposure.

If it is the labor, I suggested in another thread that we can collaberate and scan what issues we do have and have it checked off against a master list via a Project Overseer. It would be a volunteer effort, not unlike restoring a steam engine using what we do have on hand. I would imagine the vast bulk of issues that exists around the USA and the world will eventually be scanned into the collection and duplicates elminated with a simple "Delete Key" What is left after 12 months can then be scouted in librarys or known collections and filled in.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Wisconsin
  • 228 posts
Posted by MRTerry on Friday, January 5, 2007 4:40 PM

Dear readers,

Before the weekend is upon us, I'd like to address a few points raised in this thread.

1. "As has been pointed out, Kalmbach's Dream, Plan, Build series has not been a rousing best seller.  Neither have the downloadable .pdfs, even with the video content."

I'm not sure where this information came from, but it's incorrect. Both products are very successful and both are exceeding our sales goals.

2. "If it is the labor, I suggested in another thread that we can collaberate and scan what issues we do have and have it checked off against a master list via a Project Overseer."

Whether on a volunteer or a for-profit basis, scanning issues of MR for distribution is a copyright violation. Individuals can scan or copy their own issues for personal use, but not for distribution.

 3. "Scanning and indexing the issues isn't a big deal."

 Actually, it is. Getting files that are at a quality standard that we're willing to sell is a time-consuming process, and no one wants to read blurry PDFs.

 4.  "This confirms my belief that MR should occasionally include re-releases of "classical" articles in current issues."

Perhaps some future editor will do this, but with the possible exception of an anniversary issue, I don't see us doing so now. Our readers pay us good money with the expectation that they'll get new stories, and I'm not inclined to disappoint them.

5. "Their special issues and books, while not in pdf form, also frequently represent older articles."

Sort of. Some of the Model Railroader books are collections of magazine articles. Most contain all-new content. Our MR special issues - Great Model Railroads, Model Railroad Planning, How to Build Realistic Layouts, etc., are all new.

Joe Fugate has expressed our current thinking very well. Given the legal hurdles, technical challenges, and uncertain market, it's unlikely that we'll put all our back issues into an electronic format soon. Selected articles, yes, through Information Station.

MR is pretty large as hobby magazines go, but our staff actually isn't that large, and we have a lot of products in our line already. The business plan for any new product has to be stronger than the plan(s) for the other products that compete for our time. Right now, the case for electronic back issues isn't as strong as the case for several other initiatives, including some we haven't announced yet. We'd love to be able to release every product we consider, but we can't. In the meantime, if you have specific articles or topics you'd like to see covered in Information Station, e-mail us and we'll take a look. We can't always read the forum, so posting the ideas here won't ensure that we read them.

Thanks for the thoughts and the interest, and thanks most of all for reading MR. Have a good weekend.



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