Finnybank merges Acorn Publisher, Acorn UserBy Chris Williams. Published: 3rd Dec 2003, 14:52:04 | Permalink | Printable
John Cartmell takes over from Tau Press, talks to drobe.co.ukJohn Cartmell finally has what he's always wanted for Christmas - Acorn User magazine. The editor of Acorn Publisher has today acquired the ailing Acorn User from Tau Press and relaunched it under a new name, Qercus. Acorn User and Acorn Publisher will now be managed and published by Finnybank Ltd. and edited by John.
Finnybank have described their proposed changes to Acorn User as "radical" and will be pushing through a change in format to the magazine. The biggest change will be the inter-meshing of Acorn User and Acorn Publisher. The two titles will work together to provide a broad range of content from art and DTP to RISC OS programming and news.
In other words, Acorn Publisher and Acorn User are basically merging under the new Qercus brand name. If you subscribe to Qercus, every other month you'll receive an issue that is essentially Acorn Publisher which will feature graphics and design related articles. These issues are hoped to ideally appeal to people outside of RISC OS. For other months, you'll receive what is essentially Acorn User, which will focus on RISC OS news, tutorials and reviews.
An extra issue is also planned for next December and will include a review of 2004 among other things. Finnybank's John Cartmell is particularly confident that we'll still be using RISC OS in 12 months time and said his acquisition of AU is definitely for the long term. Qercus will also be produced in the same way Acorn Publisher is - on StrongARM RiscPCs with OvationPro and other assorted packages.
This fusion of the two magazines is hoped to give Acorn User a breath of fresh air and the complete overhaul it desperately needed. Punters can optionally subscribe to Qercus and receive only the graphics and design issues. Current subscribers to Acorn Publisher and Acorn User should be unaffected and Finnybank are currently contacting current and previous AU contributors to get creative minds in gear for the new format. Finnybank are also looking for anyone willing to write or suggest articles or even just send in a letter to raise an issue.
We've learnt the new Qercus magazine will have around 50 pages per issue, with 50 percent of each issue in full page colour (not including the adverts).
AU through the ages: From left to right, a 1985 frontcover, a 2003 frontcover and a mocked up impression of a 2004 cover
"I am very happy that John has agreed to take over the publication of Acorn User", Tau Press' Steve Turnbull is quoted as saying. Legend has it that on the day Tau Press acquired Acorn User from its previous publisher, Acorn announced the break up of its workstation division and the end of the Acorn-era. Despite this foreboding start, Tau Press kept AU afloat while the RISC OS landscape under went drastic changes, although many users have felt the magazine has nosedived over the past couple of years in terms of content quality and accuracy.
Braving the tears, Steve today added: "With Tau Press moving into new areas we won't be able to devote all our energies to it and a change in publisher always generates new ideas and new viewpoints."
Our news inbox revealed no emailed press release from Finnybank, so we gave them a phone call instead and warmly grilled John Cartmell after congratulating him on the news of his new publication.
John explained that the name Qercus is derived from Quercus, the botanical name for the Oak tree, a tenuous link to Acorn and greek names like Archimedes. We didn't have the heart to tell John that Qercus is also an amusing anagram of 'sucqer'. John told us he's been meaning to get rid of the 'Acorn' name in his Acorn Publisher magazine and Qercus is interesting enough to appeal to people outside of RISC OS. We have to agree with Finnybank's actions here - the Acorn name is like Acorn hardware: old and crusty, let it go.
It turns out that Acorn Publisher had been planning a big change in name and format for some time, before Tau Press contacted them recently with a proposal. John described his talks with Tau as "third time lucky".
Having said that, they say they will also keep the Acorn User name going for a while, either on the front cover or inside the magazine itself. Qercus will still remain a newstand publication, although John admitted that in most cases, you have to have it ordered over the counter at most newsagents. Finnybank hope to make use of Acorn User's archives, which includes other magazines like Archimedes World that have over the years been incorporated into AU, snowball fashion.
John also said he's willing to pay content contributors for their articles and at what he believes is a generous rate, given the income the magazine receives from adverts. Qercus will hopefully have more RISC OS relevant adverts and less 'advertorials' that AU became infamous for under Tau Press and will give RISC OS companies a single, unified spot to advertise in.
Qercus will see the return of *Info, a popular column in Acorn User that showcases new freeware with some explanation on how they work as well as the famous yellow pages with annotated program listings for people to read and learn from. John said he'd ideally like to see all kinds of programming in the yellow pages, from BASIC and C to perl and PHP to OvationPro applets. There are, however, no plans for cover discs as any software can be linked to or hosted from the magazine website. John added he'd be willing to press floppies or CDs for readers without internet access, stressing that this would only be possible if a few people requested such a service.
Fondly recalling the time he typed in a mini-spreadsheet application from the yellow pages in an AU of old, John emphasised that he wanted more people to learn how their computers worked in order to appreciate and understand them more. Throughout my chat with John, I felt a particular theme coming through - the education of others and this is probably no coincidence given that John used to be a teacher.
John also isn't a fan of regular of columns and doesn't particularly like filling pages simply because they have to be filled. Qercus will also see a return in interviews, with one already in the works with RISC OS dealer Image Factory, located in Australia. John reassured us that the focus of interviews will be of a personal angle and examine the people behind RISC OS and what "makes them tick".
An issue that takes some of the punch out of magazines these days is the online reporting of news. By the time an edition is on the doormat of readers, any news will have bee reported and discussed to death online. John was unfazed by this, saying he's trusted by and is on friendly terms with RISC OS companies so finding hot news won't be so much of a problem. Looks like we'll be sourcing the next MicroDigital exclusive from Qercus.
Every editor needs a campaign or an issue that needs addressing. John told us he would particularly like to see the benefits of using ARM powered hardware promoted more and also see RISC OS properly updated. He'd like to see features such as SVG import into !Draw and also for there to be greater co-operation between software. As for emulation, the Qercus editor believed that emulating RISC OS hardware "makes sense in many, many ways" - for example, getting RISC OS onto a laptop and for users who simply need both Windows and RISC OS.
The first edition of Qercus, the January issue, should be in the post by mid-January.
Press releases: AP buys AU, AP spawns Qercus - details on pricing, distribution etc.
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