On a Saturday afternoon in any large newsagent, you'll find quite a crowd huddled around the PC magazines. The crowd is no longer exclusively male and aged between 20 and 50. Parents, with school-age children at their side, dive for the mag with the most education-friendly CD-Rom. Women, inclined once to tap their male companions impatiently on the shoulder, are taking an interest. Have the publishers taken note? Only some of them.
Are you one of those new to this shelf in the newsagent's and not keen enough to enjoy 15 minutes' browsing? Which of the bewilderingly wide selection is most worth its cover price? After a blissful period of solitary confinement with some two dozen beguiling titles, I am ready to present the first (unofficial) TES PC Magazine Awards.
For Best Internet Magazine, the nominations are: Internet Monthly, Internet Works and .net. These all have their strong points and it's a question of which best meets your needs. Internet Monthly has certainly taken note of the shifting readership and, at pound;1.99 including CD-Rom, represents good value for money for those new to the Internet.
It is also just about the only magazine to run education-specific features (prominently marked as "UK curriculum-relevant"). Recent examples include a piece on SchoolsNet, one on a junior school's award-winning website, and a selection of online resources for design and technology. Extensive, categorised site listings in the back of the mag each month are another positive feature, but hardware and software reviews are currently weak.
.net does a much better job here, and does it more stylishly than its main rivals, thenet, which is altogether too laddish in tone and entertainment-heavy in content, and internet magazin. Well worth its pound;3.99, .net comes with excellent software and utilities on its CD. Examples of teacher-relevant features in the April issue are a page of websites on the Tudor period, and a very thorough four-page review of search engines.
The Internet.Works target readership comprises website developers and online businesses. There was a time when education and e-commerce seemed worlds apart, but not any more. Teachers, who are acquiring growing competence in Internet use and website design, will find the hardware and software reviews and the case-study sections invaluable.
For Best General PC Magazine, the nominations are: Computer Act!ve and PC Magazine. The latter is pure pedigree. It's heavy, it's serious, but if you want reliable lab-tests (data projectors in April) this is the mag. Computer Act!ve is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It's cheap (pound;1.20) and it's cheerful, but every fortnightly issue is packed with features, including a Computers In School section, which includes step-by-step projects, along the lines of make your own Pokemon card, make a sum sheet, make a Harry Potter dictionary.
And the overall winner is: Computer Act!ve for its comprehensive, accessible coverage.
Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm primary school,Hailsham, East Sussex iM (Internet Monthly) pound;1.99 e-mail:email@example.com www.internet-monthly.co.uk Internet.Works Monthly pound;3.49 Tel: 01458 271152 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.iwks.com .net Monthly pound;3.99 e-mail: email@example.com www.netmag.co.uk Computer Act!ve Fortnightly pound;1.20 Tel: 01858 438881 e-mail: subs@computeractive www.computeractive.vnunet.com PC Magazine Monthly pound;2.99 Tel: 01858 438801 e-mail: pcmagazine@Subscription.co.uk www.pcmag.co.uk