Kissin’ two old pals goodbye

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

After being an Astronomy and Sky & Telescope reader for almost two decades, most likely I won’t be renewing my three-year subscription to Sky & Telescope which is due to expire in March 2011.

I’ve been an avid amateur astronomer and astronomy magazine reader since the early eighties. I still remember the day I bought my first astronomical magazine ever, an issue of the Italian l’Astronomia: it was late 1984 and I was 12 years old. I soon decided to subscribe to it, and I continued to be a loyal customer until it closed down in 2001.

Two years later, in 1986, I got hold of a Sky and Telescope issue and it was love at first sight: it struck me for its high-level content and its high-quality pictures, but back then I could not afford another subscription. Then, in 1992, while I was an engineering student, I ran across an offer that I just could not miss out on: a subscription to Astronomy at a very special student rate. The only downside was surface delivery (i.e. by ship), so all issues would reach my mailbox with an average delay of about one month. But that wasnt much of a problem: what really mattered was that I was able to get a rather high-quality publication in English at a very convenient rate.

I ended up staying with Astronomy for about seven years. Time passed by and around the late nineties, the average quality of the Astronomy content had decreased noticeably. For this reason I went back to Sky & Telescope, which was still to be my polar star as far as astronomical magazines were concerned. Therefore, in 1999 I made up my mind and decided to dump Astronomy for Sky & Telescope.

Another eight years passed during which I enjoyed being a Sky & Telescope subscriber: then, in 2007 it underwent a radical restructuring. All the traditional paper-based press was under pressure from the ever-increasing importance of the new media (such as Internet), and astronomy magazines were no exception. Following a likely attempt to extend the magazines audience, its contents were changed considerably and experienced a significant drop in quality, which turned Sky & Telescope into just one ordinary publication. Much of the previous high-level content was gone: articles, equipment reviews downgraded to meager two-page summaries, departments, even the graphical quality was no longer the same. Finally, a few months ago I bought a couple of Astronomy issues to see if Sky & Telescopes main competitor was any better, but I was out of luck here.

My subscription to Sky & Telescope is due to expire in March 2011, and this being the situation, most likely I will not renew it. Dont get me wrong: I still value the importance of paper-based magazines very much, and I prefer to be reading an article written on something that I can still feel and touch rather than on the screen of my PC. Nevertheless, the two main American astronomical magazines no longer have any edge whatsoever over their European competitors, and there are some Italian or, better, French publications that I can still enjoy reading some good-quality technical articles on. The only reason left to read American astronomical magazines is the language, and I’m afraid this is by no means enough. In this respect, I’d say, the Internet has become a far better source of information.

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