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#1 Robert Edge

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Posted 08 February 2006 - 11:09 PM

Remember, as you read this, that the American Society of Cinematographers proclaims that it is a non-profit organisation.

Two days ago, I received a letter from the ASC offering me a "special Clubhouse offer" to renew my subscription. I discovered, when I went to the ASC website, that the "special Clubhouse offer" for renewal was exactly the same as what the ASC offers to anybody to take out a subscription.

This is pretty cheesy, but not nearly as cheesy as what I was about to discover.

It turns out that one of the options that the Auguste, honourable, non-profit American Society of Cinematographers is promoting is a digital subscription. In fact, on its website, this is described as a great way to archive issues of the magazine.

Interestingly, instead of using Adobe, they are using something called Zinio Reader. While it is not revealed on the ASC website, it appears, if one takes the time to go to the Zinio site, that the principal difference between Adobe and Zinio has to do with access to material that one has paid for and archived.

I have now sent e-mails to both the ASC and Zinio asking whether it is true, as appears to be the case, if one reads the material on the Zinio site, that I am going to be unable, if I do a digital renewal, to transfer the magazine that I have paid for from one computer to another, and that roughly three computers down the road I will be unable to access my magazines at all.

Does anyone have any experience with the AC digital version or with the Zinio Reader? If so, comments?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 12:34 AM

If you're trying to imply that the ASC actually makes a lot of money, I can assure you that this is not the case. It is run by a few people on staff and a lot of volunteer work by ASC members. If you were a member, you'd see for yourself what a small organization it is.

Obviously the reason to not allow endless reproductions of a high quality digital version of the magazine is piracy. The profit margins SO tight enough with the published materials that I don't think the digital version would be offered at all if they thought piracy would cause a loss of sales of the printed magazine, a major source of income just to keep the organization going (that and member dues, initiation fees, etc.)

And just as obviously, if you don't like the deal, then don't get the digital subscription.

People always ask why the ASC doesn't do more, have seminars, give screenings, etc. Well, partly it's a lack of money and the fact that most of the work is done with volunteer labor by people like me. Plus we work at getting vendor sponsorship for things like the ASC Awards banquet. Even the ASC Manual is partly made possible only through the ad space that companies buy in it. A small, small organization.

If you want, why not write an email to Martha the publisher and ask her the reasons for picking Zenio?
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#3 Robert Edge

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 01:17 AM

If you're trying to imply that the ASC actually makes a lot of money, I can assure you that this is not the case. It is run by a few people on staff and a lot of volunteer work by ASC members. If you were a member, you'd see for yourself what a small organization it is.

Obviously the reason to not allow endless reproductions of a high quality digital version of the magazine is piracy. The profit margins SO tight enough with the published materials that I don't think the digital version would be offered at all if they thought piracy would cause a loss of sales of the printed magazine, a major source of income just to keep the organization going (that and member dues, initiation fees, etc.)

And just as obviously, if you don't like the deal, then don't get the digital subscription.

People always ask why the ASC doesn't do more, have seminars, give screenings, etc. Well, partly it's a lack of money and the fact that most of the work is done with volunteer labor by people like me. Plus we work at getting vendor sponsorship for things like the ASC Awards banquet. Even the ASC Manual is partly made possible only through the ad space that companies buy in it. A small, small organization.

If you want, why not write an email to Martha the publisher and ask her the reasons for picking Zenio?


I neither said nor implied that the ASC makes money.

I think that when your staff send me a letter offering me a "special Clubhouse offer" to renew my subscription, and say that they are approaching me now because the problem on renewals is that people are away from home when a subscription comes up for renewal, it is disturbing that the price that I am offered turns out to be the same price offered to anyone who logs onto your website. I would like to think that ASC members and volunteers are not involved in this. More importantly, I would like to think that they would put a stop to this kind of marketing, because it is not only unworthy of the ASC, but borders on crooked. Actually, I'm being charitable. It doesn't border on crooked, it is crooked, and more importantly, from a non-profit organisation, it is dishonourable.

When the ASC actually promotes the digital version of its magazine on the ground that it eases access and archivability, I do expect it to be clear about any limitations, especially when it appears that there may be major downsides to buying such a subscription. On this question, I'll refrain from saying anything else until I receive a response from the ASC about the consequences of buying this product.

I'd be delighted if Martha responded to my e-mail and if AC, like other magazines using Zinio, was transparent on its website about the consequences of a digital subscription using the Zinio Reader.

As a member of the ASC, you might want to ask why someone who has a couple of computers and changes computers once every year or two should be denied, within a couple of years, access to ASC magazines for which they have paid. Surely the demand for back issues can't be so high that subscribers should be denied what they have paid for.
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#4 Jaan Shenberger

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 02:14 AM

though it's not really a whiz-bang great solution, the whole "limited number of computers" thing is the standard practice for purchased media nowadays.

and at least you'll be able to quickly search through your back issues by keyword.
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#5 Robert Edge

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 02:49 AM

though it's not really a whiz-bang great solution, the whole "limited number of computers" thing is the standard practice for purchased media nowadays.

and at least you'll be able to quickly search through your back issues by keyword.


Sorry, but this isn't the point.

My first concern is that I received a renewal letter that was, as far as I am concerned, a con. Let me add that the letter invited me to pay via phone, fax or mail. It did not invite the obvious, which was to pay directly over the ASC website. Having gone to the site, what did I discover? I discovered that the "special Clubhouse offer" was a fiction. Indeed, the best price offered in the "special Clubhouse offer" exceeded the best price on the website by 55 per cent.

My second concern is that the ASC is promoting a form of subscription that, according to the ASC, facilitates access and archivability, but that actually appears to severely limit both. More importantly, the ASC is NOT transparent about this.

Even if they were honest about the product, I don't get the policy. It isn't like the whole world is clamoring to get its hands on back issues of this magazine. With the caveat that I have not yet received confirmation from the ASC that my understanding of this product is correct, it should not take the better part of an hour of research to discover that this product may not be what it is represented to be.

I don't question the sincerity of the ASC members. I prefer to think that the marketing has been contracted out and they don't know what is going on. Maybe they should find out.
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#6 Brian Wells

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 06:42 PM

I discovered that the "special Clubhouse offer" was a fiction. Indeed, the best price offered in the "special Clubhouse offer" exceeded the best price on the website by 55 per cent.

Obviously, the lowest price is reserved for new subcriptions and those clever enough to get a new subcription instead of a renewal... But, is it worth saving a few dollars to risk missing an issue in between subscriptions?

See, now they've really got you in between a rock and a hard place. B)
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#7 Robert Edge

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 09:32 PM

Obviously, the lowest price is reserved for new subcriptions and those clever enough to get a new subcription instead of a renewal... But, is it worth saving a few dollars to risk missing an issue in between subscriptions?


No, that is not what the ASC is doing. Also, the "few dollars" to which you refer is US$50.

Before elaborating further, I want to give the ASC and Zinio another day to respond to my e-mails.

The ASC is pitching the digital version of its magazine as equivalent to, if not superior to, its print version. It is particularly targeting non-US subscribers: "Overseas subscribers save a bundle on postage."

I and other non-US subscribers, as well as US subscribers who are considering the digital version, have an interest in knowing whether the statements that the ASC makes about its digital version are, substantively, true or false.
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#8 Brian Wells

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Posted 09 February 2006 - 10:08 PM

No, that is not what the ASC is doing. Also, the "few dollars" to which you refer is US$50.

Sorry, I was wrong. On their website it appears subscriptions and renewals are the same price, $29.95/year. Are you telling me they sent you a "Clubhouse Special" for a One Year Renewal for $50 more than $29.95 (in other words, $79.95)? Surprising, indeed.

http://www.theasc.co...&catalogno=sub4
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#9 Preston Herrick

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Posted 10 February 2006 - 05:37 PM

Sorry, I was wrong. On their website it appears subscriptions and renewals are the same price, $29.95/year. Are you telling me they sent you a "Clubhouse Special" for a One Year Renewal for $50 more than $29.95 (in other words, $79.95)? Surprising, indeed.

http://www.theasc.co...&catalogno=sub4


And guess what else? The price on the website for subs and renewals is wrong. It's actually $34.95/yr. I mailed in a renewal last fall. They said they never got the check so after investigating I renewed over the phone. I pointed out the web site price of $29.95 and was told, "Sorry, it's $34.95". Obviously they didn't take my suggestion to update the site.

You'd think after being a faithful subscriber for years there would be a break on renewals. It's an overpriced magazine anyway. I wonder how many "comp" subscriptions they give out.
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#10 Brian Wells

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 01:16 PM

And guess what else? The price on the website for subs and renewals is wrong. It's actually $34.95/yr.

Last month I ordered a new subscription online and my first issue arrived today, I paid less than that. Really, though, what's $10 in the scheme of things?
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#11 Matt Frank

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 02:50 PM

Last month I ordered a new subscription online and my first issue arrived today, I paid less than that. Really, though, what's $10 in the scheme of things?


I just renewed 3 years and got a 4th year for free. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.
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#12 Robert Edge

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Posted 15 February 2006 - 04:44 PM

Last Tuesday, I sent e-mails to the American Society of Cinematographers and Zinio asking specific questions about digital subscriptions to American Cinematographer. To date, neither the ASC nor Zinio has replied.

Here is what the ASC says about a digital subscription on its web site:

"Now you can take your American Cinematographer subscription anywhere you have an internet connection. Save on postage and enjoy the full experience of the magazine with a digital subscription."

"AC has partnered with Zinio, the world's leading digital newsstand, to deliver your American Cinematographer subscription directly to your laptop or desktop computer. You receive your issue at the same time the issues go out to the newsstands, and your electronic issue will be identical to the print version  with all the advantages of being digital:

"Each issue is delivered directly to your laptop or desktop computer
Once delivered, you can read it even if you're not connected to the internet
Search through issues using keywords
Keep your back issues archived on your computer for easy access
Overseas subscribers save a bundle on postage."

There is something that the ASC has chosen not to reveal to people who buy the digital subscription. A digital copy of the magazine cannot be downloaded more than twice and cannot be transfered from one computer to another. This is like selling a music CD or film DVD and failing to tell the customer that it cannot be played on more than two players, ever. If you load a digital copy of AC to a desktop and laptop computer, the result is that you no longer have access to the copy once the two computers are retired. In my case, that means that access to back issues, for which I have paid, would be limited to about 18 months. I did not find out about this from the ASC web site. I found out about it when I was on the verge of letting the ASC debit my credit card for a digital subscription for US$90 and decided to do some research elsewhere on the net.

I am not surprised that the ASC has failed to respond to my e-mail about this. Their customer support is non-existent. Since last September, I have been trying to get the ASC to send me a copy of the August issue, which I did not receive. My e-mail exchange with them, which follows, would be comic were it not for the fact that it has taken up far too much of my time and demonstrates arrogance, rudeness and disgregard for paying customers on the part of the ASC:


To the ASC, September 29, 2005:

Subject: Subscription Problem

I have a subscription to American Cinematographer, but I did not receive the August issue. Could you mail it to me at:

[my address]

Thanks.


From the ASC, September 29, 2005:

Subject: your american cinematographer

a replacement copy of the american cinematographer august 2005 issue has been sent out to you, you can expect to receive it shortly, i just need to ask that when you do not receive you monthly issue, that you call us or e-mail us to notify us that you have not received your copy as soon as possible and not over a month later, keep in mind that whe are always a month ahead and if there are any changes they will not be made until the following month.

thank you


alex lopez
circulation manager


To the ASC, September 29, 2005:

Subject: re: your american cinematographer

I have been out of the country for the last three months and discovered this on my return. If you are questioning my veracity about this, just say so. If not, then I must say that I don't understand your point that I advise you "as soon as possible and not over a month later".

Have a good day.


To the ASC, October 31, 2005:

Subject: re: your american cinematographer

I just recieved the November issue. I am still waiting for the August issue. Has it been sent yet?

Thanks.


To the ASC, November 8, 2005:

Subject: Could someone please reply

Could I please get a reply to these e-mails? Thanks.

[e-mails to date appended]


To the ASC, November 14, 2005:

Subject: For the Circulation Manager

Could you please tell me what I have to do to get a response to these e-mails and, specifically, the August issue of the magazine to which I subscribe?

Thanks.

[e-mails to date appended]


To the Editor and President of the ASC, November 17, 2005:

Subject: Customer Service

I am sorry to trouble you, but repeated e-mails to your circulation department remain unanswered. Please see the below exchange.

Thanks.

[e-mails to date appended]


Neither the Editor nor the President, nor anyone on their behalf, saw fit to respond. On January 25, 2006, I decided to take one last shot at reaching these people:

To the ASC, January 25, 2006:

Subject: Subscription Problem

I did not receive the August issue and so I sent an e-mail to your office. On Sept. 29, Mr. Alex Lopez replied stating that the issue was being sent. I have sent repeated follow-up e-mails since then, but have not received a reply to any of them, and I have still not received the August issue.

Could someone please advise that the magazine is being sent.

Thanks.


From the ASC or, rather, what appears to be an automatic reply generator, January 25, 2006:

Subject: Subscription Problem

Greetings!

Thank you for your inquiry. I have forwarded it to our circulation department where it will hopefully be dealt with as soon as possible. If you feel your request hasn't been addressed within a reasonable amount of time, please feel free to contact our offices in the US at (323)-969-4333. If you call after business hours (9:00 AM-5:00 Pacific Standard Time, Monday-Friday), you may dial ext. 112 for the voicemail our circulation manager, once prompted.

Thank you!


As of today, February 15, 2006, I have still not received the August issue.


Maybe somebody connected with the ASC will read this and consider the possibility that there are some problems, to put it charitably, with the ASC's marketing and treatment of customers.

Indeed, I believe that someone from the ASC should have the decency to respond to this thread on the following issues:

Does the ASC intend to change its web site so that there is a substantively honest description of its digital subscription offer?

What is the policy rationale, or for that matter economic rationale, for selling a digital subscription that has limitations that are actually more restrictive than those attached to CDs and DVDs and, for that matter, the purchase of Adobe software that costs serious money, Adobe being particularly aggressive when it comes to rights management?

Does the ASC care about customer service and, if so, what does it intend to do, if anything, to ensure that paying customers do not spend months trying to resolve what ought to be simple problems?

Does the ASC, as a non-profit organisation, believe that it is ethical to send a letter to current subscribers asking them to renew, described as a "special Clubhouse offer", which turns out, if one logs on to the ASC web site, to be nothing special at all, and that would in fact be inferior by quite a lot of money, for foreign subscribers, to the digital subscription, were it not for the fact that the digital subscription turns out to be dishonestly described.

I am inclined to bump this thread once a week until the ASC addresses these issues. It does itself, and its customers, a disservice when it rolls out a digital subscription programme that is substantively misleading. Potential subscribers deserve to know what they are actually buying. Hopefully, the ASC will itself at some point see fit to be more forthcoming in its description of the product.

Personally, I think a digital subscription is a great idea, but the restrictions make it, from my point of view, pretty much a non-starter as an option.

If someone at the ASC, as a result of this post, actually puts a copy of the August issue into an actual envelope and actually mails it to me, I'll consider it a bonus :)

[This has been edited at 21:30 EST, Feb. 15, 2006]
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 02:31 PM

I forwarded this post to Martha the publisher of the magazine. She replied:

"I've searched through all the emails sent to the shopkeeper for the last two months and have found no complaint emails. Is there a way to get this guy to email me directly at martha@ascmag.com? I'd like to respond."

In terms of the website, I think she would be the first the complain but the trouble is that the ASC DP in charge of updating the website is very busy these days (like I said, most of the work at the ASC is volunteer labor by the members) plus changes have to be approved by the Board of Governors, etc. Has the effect of making sure nothing gets done. As far as pricing of the subscriptions, I'm sure it is a haphazard arrangement that developed over the years (the mag is over 80 years old afterall). If you're expecting corporate-type efficiency (not that corporations are efficient) you've probably come to the wrong place; the organization is a little more mom-and-pop in its size and layout.

Truth is that I subscribed to British Cinematographer Magazine back in July 2005 and have yet to receive a single issue despite seven months of emailing back and forth complaining...
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#14 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 02:54 PM

If it was such a problem how come you never called the ASC Subscription number?
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#15 Robert Edge

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 04:24 PM

I forwarded this post to Martha the publisher of the magazine. She replied:

"I've searched through all the emails sent to the shopkeeper for the last two months and have found no complaint emails. Is there a way to get this guy to email me directly at martha@ascmag.com? I'd like to respond."


Thanks, I've sent her an e-mail.

My own experience is that smaller organisations are frequently more responsive than large ones. If the staff are overworked, or the right technology is not in place, ASC members really ought to do something about it. Magazine and book sales are, or at least should be, a profit centre, and should be run in a business-like manner. There is no point in an organisation setting up contact addresses if it can't handle the load. This just causes stress for the organisation and frustration for customers. The net result is ill-will, which non-profit organisations in particular can't afford.

I don't think that the concerns I expressed in this thread are as much about efficiency as they are about ethical business practices. The outsider does not see what is going on within the ASC. What the outsider sees is that the ASC, from an objective point of view, is doing things that one does not expect from a legitimate organisation and that undermine its credibility. Subscription offers that purport to be something they are not hurt the organisation. Indeed, when a misleading subscription offer is accompanied by a profile of an ASC member endorsing the product, it undermines the credibility of that member.

This example pales in comparison to the promotional material for the new digital subscription programme, which without question is misleading. In light of your post about the nature of the organisation, I am prepared to accept the idea that the person who wrote the promotional material simply forgot, in his or her enthusiasm, to mention that there are restrictions to a digital subscription that make it highly unattractive for a good number of current and potential subscribers.

On the substance, I think that it is a real shame that the ASC has decided to launch a digital programme that stands a good chance of being dead in the water. I believe that there is a real market for a digital subscription that is properly archivable, especially if it utilizes a mainstream and well-supported application like Adobe. If the concern is that people will share subscriptions electronically, thereby undermining the subscription base and advertising revenue, surely it is possible to place a temporary lock, say for six months, on the ability to transfer electronic copies of the magazine from computer to computer. Indeed, I subscribe to a magazine that addresses this issue on the honour principle - the publisher simply appeals to the fair play of subscribers. This has worked for the three years that the magazine in question has been doing this.

In any event, the nature of the digital subscription needs to be clarified. The main reason is that the current promotional material is substantively misleading. The practical reason is that the ASC may find that it has a major headache on its hands dealing with subscribers who have forked over their money without finding out, beforehand, what they are getting into. There are reasons why other publishers that have bought into Zinio state on their web sites what the restrictions are, not the least being that failure to do so probably opens up a magazine to a class action suit for general and punitive damages.

Regarding Eric's question, which I take to be an attempt to be smart, the ASC web site has a contact page that lists an e-mail address for customer issues but not a "subscription number". There is a general office number, listed at the bottom of the contact page, which in my naivete I assumed is designed for dealing with mainstream ASC business rather than customer complaints. Indeed, the ASC's last e-mail to me suggests that I contact that number IF the e-mail exchange does not resolve the problem. Indeed, the publisher, as stated in David's thread, has suggested that I contact her by e-mail. Beyond that, during part of the period during which this issue was going on, I was in Europe. Transatlantic (or I guess in this case transpacific) long distance calls are sufficiently expensive that it would have been cheaper to order the magazine as a back issue than to try to resolve this over the phone. However, Eric, if the ASC would prefer that customers who have a problem call its main switchboard, preferably collect for those of us who live outside the US, I shall of course be pleased to oblige.
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 04:52 PM

If the staff are overworked, or the right technology is not in place, ASC members really ought to do something about it.


Like, when we're not trying to earn a living as cinematographers. And do it without a lot of operating budget.

I don't know what you expect from us. Go and visit the office sometime and see the guy at his desk with a bookshelf full of books to mail out and boxes of magazines. There's the other girl who handles subscription calls. Some guy to carry things. Then there's Martha at her desk and the editor Stephen at his desk. There is an office secretary and an assistant to the President, maybe two other people in general. All in temporary quarters at AMPAS Pickford Center next to some freezing hallways that border the film vaults. That's about it for the non-ASC members of the ASC.

Sure, it would be great if we all were more organized and did more to fix up the organization, but that would involve starting to turn down jobs and devote more time to the ASC. I'm on the Tech Committee and only managed to make four meetings in 2005, and I'm not particularly successful as a DP compared to most members.

I gave the AC staff my own index of the 1970's issues of the magazine that I had compiled, four years ago, and at the time they said they were working on an index. Well, four years later there is still isn't an index that goes back more than ten or twenty years as far as I know. Because they'd have to pay someone to do it, someone who knows something about indexing periodicals. And I'm not going to do it. I'm already volunteering to edit the edition after next of the AC Manual and perhaps edit a Digital Manual.

Things get done at the own pace when it's being done by volunteers. As it is, the progress on a new building for the staff and collection has been slowed down. Every discussion on what the ASC can do in the future eventually turns into a money discussion. How do we pay for things? Book sales, the magazine, membership dues, and initiation fees basically keeps it afloat but it doesn't allow much room for expansion. Allowing a digital version of the magazine to float around without checks on piracy could be disasterous.

It's easy to sit back and say that being disorganized reflects badly on us members, but it's another thing to tell us exactly how a bunch of working cinematographers are so supposed to find the time and money to improve the organization when many of us maybe can devote a couple of days per month on average. Now you know why one of the criteria for joining is willingness to work for the organization, because it's more than a simple prestige thing where you get to stick three letters next to your name. We're not the union -- we don't have a paid staff on the scale of IATSE or the DGA.

At its heart, it's a CLUBHOUSE. Intimate and low-key, a place for like-minded cinematographers to meet and talk. So sometimes the organization has the feeling of a "hey kids, let's put on a show!" level of activity, very hands-on and small, more of a fraternity than a business empire. Its value lies mainly in the prestige of its members and their passion about cinematography and the issues surrounding it, and willingness to devote themselves to more than just their career. But it isn't easy to find a balance between work, family, and volunteering at the clubhouse.
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#17 Robert Edge

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Posted 17 February 2006 - 06:10 PM

I don't know what you expect from us. Go and visit the office sometime and see the guy at his desk with a bookshelf full of books to mail out and boxes of magazines. There's the other girl who handles subscription calls. Some guy to carry things. Then there's Martha at her desk and the editor Stephen at his desk. There is an office secretary and an assistant to the President, maybe two other people in general.

...

Allowing a digital version of the magazine to float around without checks on piracy could be disasterous.

...

It's easy to sit back


There is a disconnect between the organisation as presented on the internet and what you are describing as the reality. The web site, to the credit of the designer, presents the image of a pretty slick operation, whereas the truth appears to be rather more humble. Did you say that the web designer makes Hollywood films :)?

The problem is that the ASC publishes a magazine and sells books and DVDs on a for-profit basis. It is currently offering Storaro's books for $US400. Whether the ASC wants to recognise it or not, customers are entitled to expect this activity to be run on a professional, business-like basis. In saying this, I really am trying to be constructive.

As for a digital subscription, I think that there is potentially a very strong market for the magazine in that form, but I wonder whether Zinio was the right way to go. I suspect not. Regardless, the ASC does not have an option about how it is currently being promoted. Regardless of how or why it happened, the current promotional text has to be fixed, for both ethical and legal reasons.

I don't think that it is fair to say of someone who supports the ASC as a subscriber, and who has raised what appear to be quite legitimate concerns, "It's easy to sit back".

However, let me take up the challenge and say that I am prepared to volunteer time to the ASC in a capacity that can work, given that I don't live in Los Angeles, through electronic communication.

Cheers
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#18 Robert Edge

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 07:52 PM

An update...

On Friday evening, EST, I received a very responsive e-mail acknowledgment from Martha. The August issue is in the mail.

In case there is any question, I want to make it clear that the issue that I have raised about digital subscriptions to American Cinematographer is of immediate practical, rather than theoretical, significance.

By that, I mean that I am about to renew my subscription to AC for four years. I have two choices. I can subscribe to the hard copy, and assuming that I continue to use my Canadian rather than US address, this will cost $US140, or I can subscribe to the digital version for $US90.

My preference is a digital version. I say this for access and storage reasons rather than financial reasons. Indeed, I would be happy to pay US$120 for it if it met my needs.

Unfortunately, until someone tells me that the digital version is not subject to Zinio's restrictions, it is of no value to me as an option.

In making this decision, I have also taken into account my impression of Zinio as a company. This is important because Zinio, rather than the ASC, is the actual interface for a digital subscription.

On February 7, I sent an e-mail to the "Zinio Customer Support Team" asking whether my understanding of the restrictions is correct. In response, I received a computer-generated e-mail stating that I "should receive a response within five business days". This told me that Zinio either does not provide customer support on weekends or wants grace time. In either case, it is now 12 calendar days, and eight business days, from my e-mail to Zinio, and I have not received a response. This does not inspire confidence. If one is inclined to say "who cares", one might consider that Zinio itself has a long list of installation and software support issues, listed on its own web site and e-mail form to its "Customer Support Team", that it anticipates customers may experience.

My attempt to e-mail Zinio was itself interesting. There is a form that contains required fields. These fields include the requirement that one select the magazine about which one is asking a question. As of February 7 (I have not checked since), AC was not on the list, nor was there a category called "other". As a result, it was not possible to ask a question of the Zinio Customer Support Team, about AC, without stating that the question was about another magazine that the Team recognises it is supporting.

I really wonder whether the ASC asked its subcribers what they wanted in terms of a digital subscription, or understood what they were buying into, when they signed on with Zinio. Does the ASC understand that it is not selling a weekly or monthly, quickly dated, newsmagazine? Does it understand that it is selling a small circulation magazine for which there just isn't a mass demand?

If the ASC told me, tomorrow, that I could buy their magazine in Adobe Acrobat, I would. As it is, there isn't a hope in hell. I'll be renewing for a hard copy, which isn't my preference, and given how it is promoting the digital subscription, probably isn't the ASC's preference either.

There is a point where concern about "piracy" is paranoid, and where serving that concern undermines the viability of the product. I think that the ASC had a chance here to both lower its costs and expand its subscription base. My bet is that it has blown that chance.
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#19 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 08:53 PM

Regarding Eric's question, which I take to be an attempt to be smart, the ASC web site has a contact page that lists an e-mail address for customer issues but not a "subscription number". There is a general office number, listed at the bottom of the contact page, which in my naivete I assumed is designed for dealing with mainstream ASC business rather than customer complaints. Indeed, the ASC's last e-mail to me suggests that I contact that number IF the e-mail exchange does not resolve the problem. Indeed, the publisher, as stated in David's thread, has suggested that I contact her by e-mail. Beyond that, during part of the period during which this issue was going on, I was in Europe. Transatlantic (or I guess in this case transpacific) long distance calls are sufficiently expensive that it would have been cheaper to order the magazine as a back issue than to try to resolve this over the phone. However, Eric, if the ASC would prefer that customers who have a problem call its main switchboard, preferably collect for those of us who live outside the US, I shall of course be pleased to oblige.


All I'm saying is that you can make things easier for yourself. If it's not important enough to TRY calling, why are you complaining so much...especially to people who have no control over it? I mentioned calling because you have made it clear that email exchange had NOT worked. Why not call the switchboard if it's such a problem? I'm not being smart, I'm using common sense.

Furthermore, I'm shocked at your arrogance and indifference to the ASC after David has explained in great detail to you how the ASC operates. You seem to have so understanding of how a non-profit works. Just because they make money on books doesn't mean they make a profit. That 'profit' is reinvested into sustaining the organization...at the year end they show no profit as an organization.
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#20 Robert Edge

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Posted 19 February 2006 - 10:39 PM

Furthermore, I'm shocked at your arrogance and indifference to the ASC after David has explained in great detail to you how the ASC operates. You seem to have so understanding of how a non-profit works. Just because they make money on books doesn't mean they make a profit. That 'profit' is reinvested into sustaining the organization...at the year end they show no profit as an organization.


Eric, you and I use language differently.

If you want to say that I am arrogant and indifferent to the ASC, given that I am about to renew a subscription for four years and that I buy other ASC pubications, go ahead, although it seems to me that these might not be quite the right words.

I happen to work closely with a non-profit organisation, but of course I acknowledge, as you allege, that I may "have no understanding" of how non-profit organisations work. I shall say only two things about the organisation that I work with. The first is that integrity is everything. The second, which should be understood by every organisation, is that you never, ever, create expectations that you can't deliver.

You are of course right that the ASC puts its profits from sales into other activities, among them the construction of a new "Clubhouse" building, which no doubt costs plenty. That's fine, but not at the expense of service to, or transparency toward, customers of its for-profit operations.

I don't know about you, but I think that "shocked" is a pretty heavy word when applied to the kinds of issues raised in this thread. Myself, I tend to reserve words like that for what is happening in places like Darfor. If you want to say that you are "shocked" by what I am saying, that is of course your privilege.

I note that you have focused on one issue raised in this thread and that you have ignored the others. I'd like to know, in particular, whether you think that it is "complaining" to suggest that the ASC should be transparent about its new digital programme.

P.S. My failure to respond to your first paragraph was deliberate. If you want to believe that I lack your self-professed knack for common sense, that's ok with me.
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