One Graham's View

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Matilda Ziegler Magazine goes on-line

Good morning,

The latest offering of the
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind,
an on-line version of the publication, is a decision which is past due and notable, but the web verification process leaves me a bit curious.

I am personally very pleased with the magazine’s editors for embracing the advent of technology and the internet as accessible media, but their decision to produce an on-line version comes at a time when many blind people have been on-line for several years already. Perhaps I shouldn’t ding them for this as this decision may have been a hard fought and protracted legal battle to present copyrighted material on the internet.

However, given this potential premise, I would think the editors would ensure access is granted to only those who have some form of registration with the site, much like their other versions are mailed out. This would ensure that only verified blind readers are getting their material and cover any question legalaties, I would think. On-line, this could be easily achieved with a registration process where readers would log on using a user ID and password, much like thousands of other web sites already do. However, the Ziegler has curiously made their magazine accessible with only a single mouse click on a dialogue box stating, “ By clicking, I certify that I am legally blind.”

On the surface, this might meet the letter of the law for verification, but I would think that, given the historical tenacity of publisher’s to protect their printed works, the publishers of the magazine’s original copyrighted content would press diligently for tighter access controls.

A personal note: When I hit the escape key instead of the enter key on the dialogue box, the page of content loaded just as if I had clicked the verification that I was legally blind. Maybe this is a fluke in the web page’s development, but I would think that by pressing escape would cancel the requested page to load. Instead, it lets someone who basically says, “Oh, no. I’m not legally blind,” gain the very access the site is attempting to control.

I have been a subscriber and reader of the Ziegler for many years. With my personal love for the magazine, I’ve been surprised with the large number of blind people I’ve met that have never even heard of this fine publication. I personally believe that the magazine works hard to present articles that have broad appeal and are interesting to a broad scope of readers. There are always included humor pieces at the end and a reader’s forum.

With all this said, I hope my above comments don’t come across as negative of the publication. I think it is a fine magazine and applaud any efforts to maximize its readership. I am just scratching my head over their seemingly flawed access control to copyrighted material.

For the uninformed, The Ziegler, as it is commonly referred to by its readers, is a monthly magazine produced for the blind in an alternate format; braille, 4-track cassette, floppy disk, email, and, in the latest offering, an on-line version. The magazine began production in 1907 by its namesake matriarch and is a collection of recently published articles in popular magazines reviewed and gathered by the Ziegler editors, and then produced in an accessible format for the target audience.

According to the magazine’s web site:
“The magazine's peak circulation was reached in 1936, when its three editions went to 12,400 readers. Despite the many new channels of entertainment and information now accessible to blind people, circulation is as high as it has ever been since then. Almost 10,500 names are on the subscription list, with almost 4,500 taking the braille edition, and more than 6,000 taking the four-track cassette.

With the above referenced number of braille subscribers, the Ziegler Magazine claims to have the largest braille circulation of any secular publication, which makes it worth noting in its own right.

While tightening the access controls to the on-line material may initially cause some to grumble about setting up another on-line registration, it will show a good faith effort of the Ziegler to respect the copyrighted material. If changes occur, then both access to copyrighted works can be restricted and another accessible format can be offered blind readers.



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