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Qercus moves to in-house production

By Chris Williams. Published: 5th Sep 2005, 16:48:15 | Permalink | Printable

Monthly mag does impression of quarterly journal

Qercus logoMedia watch Publisher Finnybank is set to produce and print future issues of Qercus magazine in-house to avoid further delays in production. The decision to produce the monthly magazine single-handedly together with alleged difficulties with the publication's current printers has caused the monthly magazine to be set back an astonishing three months. The editor of Qercus, John Cartmell, has claimed that despite spending thousands of pounds an issue on printing, sending postscript files to the printers has resulted in unsatisfactory output quality, for instance.

"We don't expect to be able to recover the capital costs of the current changes but that's our personal contribution to the RISC OS scene - and having given that personal contribution we will ensure that Qercus continues," John told his readers.

Subscribers were last sent an issue prior to the Wakefield show in May, and some are now considering whether or not there is any point in renewing their subscriptions. The magazine has since stressed that subscriptions cover the number of issues posted, rather than time elapsed. We also understand that the magazine has turned down offers of assistance with production from users connected with RISC OS media. Born from the merger of the waning monthly Acorn User and bi-monthly Acorn Publisher, Qercus last apologised for delays in February.

A spokesperson for Qercus was unavailable for comment.

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Discussion

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I think there's quite a lot to prove here. I used to enjoy Acorn Publisher, it was well produced, interesting and turned up every two months. AU, it's true, had become something of a joke.

Since Qercus started, I've had the odd magazine arrive at a random time with rather mediocre content. It say a lot that my AP subscription has yet to expire.

Don't get me wrong, I wish John well and I think a news stand magazine is important to our platform (frankly, the fact that it kept RISC OS in W H Smith is the only reason I kept buying AU). However, to be credible, a magazine does need to meet certain minimum standards of production values and content quality.

Thank goodness there's still Archive for those moments when a paper magazine is more convenient than Drobe.

 is a RISC OS UserTonyStill on 5/9/05 9:07PM
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Personally, as a subscriber, I'm not to bothered by the delays. Perhaps I should be.

I do prefer the quality of the production, in comparison to what Acorn User had become, and issues of Qercus are worth keeping.

On the other hand, such long delays wreck any feeling of momentum with the various series of articles and tutorials.

I guess if Qercus is to be bi-monthly or quarterly or even just pre-a-show, it'd be nice if that was stated rather than the readership being led ot expect one thing and receiving something else.

But John's such a jolly nice bloke, I forgive him.

 is a RISC OS Usermartin on 5/9/05 9:14PM
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martin:

I have to completely agree with everything you've said. John's a good guy who is very much trying his best to deliver the best magazine he can for the RISC OS market. The thing is, I think he probably underestimated just how much work taking on two magazines was going to be.

Whilst I don't think Qercus matches Acorn Publisher (of old) in terms of production quality, it still contains interesting and creative tutorials that are genuinely useful.

However, John is fast running out of time to prove that he is up to the job of keeping the magazine going in the long term. The good name of Acorn Publisher has been damaged and I fear that the magazine will soon no longer be financially viable as more and more readers let their subscriptions lapse.

 is a RISC OS Userfylfot on 5/9/05 10:28PM
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I'm afraid that Drobe has got the wrong end of the stick. I wish they had checked their facts first. We are spending money on a number of changes to our office organisation - including refurbished new premises - but we cannot afford to feed and home a team of copyist monks and the more modern equivalent simply won't fit into the space available either.

We are very grateful for the slack that people have given us and the good people that are our readers are the reason we are spending money to ensure that our service has less chance of failure in the future.

And we are starting some good new series as well!

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 6/9/05 10:52AM
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jc: "I wish they had checked their facts first."

That might have been difficult, though, given the recent problems with Qercus phone and email communications...

dgs

 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 6/9/05 11:21AM
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Good luck to John, but I'm not convinced about the plan to take production in house. Commercial printers have mostly made a massively larger investment in equipment than private individuals or small publishing firms, and have the skills and experience to use it. With modern digitally imaged sheetfed press technology even short runs can be efficiently produced. A magazine editor should not be wasting energy or time on production: his proper function, which a printer cannot duplicate, is to commission features, map editorial strategy, promote sales and generally take care of content (and pay the bills of course). I can't help thinking that it would be easier and cheaper to solve the existing production issues than take on a whole raft of new ones....

 is a RISC OS Userbucksboy on 6/9/05 12:46PM
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The delays between issues of Quercus have meant that I have had time to read them cover to cover instead of putting them in the push-down stack only half read.

I think there is room for a quarterly mag in th RISCOS world

 is a RISC OS UserJohnR on 6/9/05 12:49PM
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I think JC taught my class graphics at Dacorum College for a term.

I was shocked to hear that he had not only heard of artworks, but had also used it! (I used it for some of my work) :@P

I hope it goes well, as I might be subscribing :@P

 is a RISC OS Userem2ac on 6/9/05 1:22PM
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And what we still haven't had is a straight answer - WHEN IS THE NEXT ISSUE COMING OUT? I sent a poilte email to John last week, which was promptly ignored.. when many others have got through without complication.

John has had MANY offers of help, all of which have been politely declined. The current situation is verging on the ridiculous. Can we have a straightforward answer please, John - what is the publication date for the next issue?

Not 'It's at the printers'

When is it coming out?

 is a RISC OS Userriscdomain on 6/9/05 1:24PM
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riscdomain: "I sent a poilte email to John last week, which was promptly ignored"

I'm pleased to hear that you were dealt with speedily :)

 is a RISC OS UserHertzsprung on 6/9/05 2:06PM
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lol indeed :)

 is a RISC OS Userriscdomain on 6/9/05 2:34PM
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Frankly, these issues were more than apparent this time last year; 8 months after he took it over. The delays simply aren't excusable.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 6/9/05 3:10PM
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riscdomain: I haven't ignored any emails but I'm not receiving all that are going through the company domain names. I'm not getting a clear answer whether the problem is with BT, Demon, the hosting company, or the equipment here. I think e-mails are all getting through on qercus@cartmell.demon.co.uk so you can try that. 'Net (and telephone) connection are both troublesome at the moment but, as all will have to be re-fixed within 10 days or so when we move to the new office space we should be guaranteed decent connections again. I'll attempt to deal with your query as quickly as you thought I'd ignored you! ;-)

JohnR: I'm afraid issue 276 is likely to be a bit full for you again but I'm afraid I can't tell you where the issue is - riscdomain would shout. It will be with you soon with a new CAD series, hardware & software reviews, a new diary column, a new graphics series, &c. And 277/8 will start a new programming series. It's not the cause of the delay but we will also be implementing a new layout. Hope you all like it as it's based on (positive) criticism from readers and 'net denizens.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 6/9/05 5:14PM
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In reply to jc

Please not yet another redesign. It has become very tiresome these new designs every issue (was going to say month). You have problems with the printers, it seems you don't listen to them. You keep changing things, and have said this last issue has been at the printers for nearly 2 months now.

Paul Beverley can edit and get printed TWO magazines, one monthly and the other bi-monthly normally, but you can't even get one out!

Stop tinkering with the design, and get the thing out. Take the advice and help offered or even use the printers that Acorn Publisher did !

There should be no more then one design change in 12 months, so far its every issue with Qercus.

My comments may be harsh John, but the delays are simply not good enough and actually damage the RISC OS market.

 is a RISC OS UserWakeman on 6/9/05 7:35PM
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I have to query the moderation going on in this thread. Both of John's replies have been moderated down (one to about -5 when I looked). Since the thread is about Qercus, he's the editor and he's replying to points in the thread - how can he be off topic?

Unless I've misunderstood, the moderation is not about whether one agrees with the post (or likes the poster), it's about relevance and furthering the debate. I think we should thank John for entering the debate in this somewhat critical thread.

 is a RISC OS UserTonyStill on 6/9/05 9:46PM
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TonyStill: I agree with your comment. Personally, I moderated one of jc's comments up, and one of them down.

The one that I moderated up, was the one that explained that there were problems contacting Qercus via published details, and provided an alternative.

Even if John's explanation may have been a little long-winded, I find it surprising that people would want to moderate down a comment that provided an explanation of how to contact the Qercus editor most easily!

After all, if anyone feels that changes need to be made to Qercus, why would those people want to block off the channel for suggestions or complaints?

However, discussion of moderation is off topic for this article, so I hope everyone will moderate down this comment and your latest comment as well.

There is space in the Forums for comments about ratings of comments!

dgs

 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 6/9/05 11:37PM
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John has asked me to point out that internet access (and email) to Qercus, which has been intermittent for at least a week, now appears to have completely died. He's hoping that the problem will be fixed by this weekend but, at this moment in time, there is no understanding whether the problem is with his ISP, internet set up or BT.

In the interim any *really* urgent emails can be sent via me:

cartmellbrowne [at] ukonline. co.uk

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 7/9/05 10:43AM
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We appear to br back on line (internet) and back on line (telephone). Whilst we found the internet problem (hardware) the telephone has righted itself merely with the threat of a visit from a BT engineer. I'm just hoping that a visit next week from a second engineer, to put our new office on line, doesn't set off more problems.

Wakeman: We are listening to our Printers (and readers) which is why we make changes. And Qercus cannot be produced in the same way as Archive. The differences are what produce most of the printing problems. Previous editors (eg Mike Williams and Steve Turnbull) got around those problems by producing the magazine in a totally different way (but one that was allowed by the Printers only as a special concession to Mike) or by using Macs to produce the magazine. I've insisted on using only RISC OS machines from receipt of copy to preparing the magazine for the printers.

riscdomain: I've not (yet) found your e-mail in the backlog. Can you send it again?

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 11/9/05 12:41AM
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John,

We appreciate the efforts you're going to. However Qercus magazine is currently over three months late, and while it's a case in point that Acorn User and Archimedes World were both at one point produced entirely using RISC OS; they always involved another computer platform for generating film or PDFs to send them to print.

We *KNOW* what RISC OS is capable of producing in print; but a good chunk of the titles that are subsequently have help from a Mac or PC at the print stage. There's no point delaying a magazine so you can use RISC OS computers only to produce it. You have a commercial product, which should be making a regular appearance.

Listen to your READERS and use whatever means necesary to get the magazine out on time. If that involves a PC or Mac, then so be it.

Can we have the answer to the date given before - WHEN WILL THE MAGAZINE BE SENT OUT? PLEASE??

David Bradforth

 is a RISC OS Userriscdomain on 11/9/05 1:12AM
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When I edited and produced Acorn User, this is how I did things:

1. Adjust images in Photodesk or, in later issues, with Photoshop because Photoshop did a better job and a lot faster.

2. Layout the magazine in Ovation Pro, using CMYK colours.

3. Generate PostScript files of the pages

4. Send these to the Mac and generate CMYK PDF files, which were then sent to the printers.

A professional printer will still accept PostScript files, which will produce professional results.

The Mac was used for PDF creation due to RiScript's lack of clipping and CMYK support (at the time).

You have a laptop running VirtualAcorn. Buy Adobe Acrobat and drop your PosctScript files onto that. You should end up with CMYK PDF files you can send to any half-decent printing firm.

PS Just a plea to people - will you please mod comments based on whether they are suitable, not whether you agree with them or not. Whoever modded down David Bradforth's comment has done so on the basis of disagreeing with him, because the comment is bang on-topic. Thanks!!

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 12/9/05 6:22PM
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I meant to mention: it was very quick, very easy and presented no problems. I'd be interested to know (perhaps privately) what problems have occurred and why.

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 12/9/05 6:24PM
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Thanks arenaman - i've also produced magazines on RISC OS, but never entirely RISC OS. Where the title had to go to a Mac literate printers, the files were converted into PDF format on a Mac then sent as such.

I remain optimistic about things in general, and look forward to seeing the next issue.

David

 is a RISC OS Userriscdomain on 12/9/05 8:19PM
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*In reply to JC*

I see you have now responded.

You still are NOT listenising to us. The redesigns are delaying things, Why are you so pig in the head or sand about using RISC OS only. Use the proper tool for the job. This is a commercial operation! Not a hobby exercise.

To be honest if I had been the MD of your company, I would have sacked you months ago. To be blunt its unprofessional and totally unacceptable. It also shows that currently on the basis of what you are doing or not as the case my be that RISC OS is regreatably not upto the job.

Other can do it, you can't it appears. Arenaman has told you of a way. why not use it.

I realise this is very blunt John and I want Qercus to prosper, but it won't if you don't get the magazines out.

I now expect to see 4 Qercus's in the next 6 weeks. This last one you have said has been at the printers for 2 months and its still not out last issue was in May - 4 months ago.......

 is a RISC OS UserWakeman on 14/9/05 11:29PM
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For 4 years, until it folded a year ago, I produced a magazine - 32 pages A4 some colour some B&W - entirely using RISC OS. The completed OvPro file was sent to RISC OS friendly image setter (MicroLaser Design) who produced films for passing on to the printer. Stage two was to get the magazine released from its printer contact and get the entire job done by MLD. Acorn Publisher featured the magazine in one of its articles.

 is a RISC OS Usercharles on 17/9/05 12:29PM
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In reply to Arenamans comment about how he produced Acorn User:

I see no reason why every one of those steps needed to produce the mag can't be done (and in a fraction of the time) on a Windows PC. That would remove the need (and thus, hassle and time) to transfer files from one machine to another.

Of course, John may find that he loses interest in RISC OS once he is used to Windows and realises just how powerful and useful a Windows PC can really be, and just how far behind and generally limited/pointless RISC OS machines really are in this day and age. Cheers!

 is a RISC OS Userfwibbler on 17/9/05 3:33PM
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You are right, there is no reason why each of these steps cannot be done on a Windoze machine. Or an Amiga. Or a Mac. Or an Atari. Perhaps it makes some sense, though, to use RISC OS if that's what you know and like and also if that's what your publication is about.

To say a RISC OS machine is pointless in this day and age is a bit of a senseless remark. It is perfectly true that they are lacking in several areas, there is no doubt about it, but not to the extent where you could legitimately claim they are pointless. Note also developments such as the Firefox port, which fixes the biggest software problem. I think there's a way to go yet before RISC OS is pointless.

 is a RISC OS Userarenaman on 17/9/05 5:27PM
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