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AGS Journal going digital – Frequent Questions & Answers

January 20, 2023
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Here are some frequent questions and answers regarding the future changes that the AGS will have to implement in order to secure its financial health and improve interaction with its members

From 2024, the basic AGS membership package will only include a digital version of the Journal, alongside other benefits like free Zoom lectures, free entry to all AGS Shows, free entry to the AGS Library and Garden. We will continue to offer a printed biannual journal to members. However, this publication will not be part of the membership package. The printed Journal will need to be purchased separately at a price which will reflect printing and postage costs.

We understand that there are some members who do not wish to or cannot use a computer. We will always try to assist these members, anyone can contact the office and we will always do what we can to help.

Q: Why is the AGS stopping printing journals?

A: Over recent years, paper and postage have become extremely expensive and prices are set to increase further. This, together with the impact on the environment from the production and transport of our Journal made the Board look at how we should protect the AGS for the future.

Q: Will I still receive my paper journal in 2023?

A: Yes, your journal will be delivered as normal, unless you have chosen to opt for a paperless subscription.

Q: When will the first digital issue of our Journal be available to try?

A: From July 2023 onwards, members will be able to read the journal on-line on our website, or through an app on mobile devices. Details will be made available in the June edition.

Until then you can try out the digital version of our September 2022 issue by accessing the link below. The Freeflow Reader will allow you to translate the journal in a foreign language, or have it read out to you. Text and images can be enlarged at will.

AGS digital Journal

Q: Why was this particular cost-saving solution chosen and what are its advantages?

A: The AGS Board of Trustees has taken into consideration the financial health of our Society, its declining membership and also current economic circumstances, including inflation and a squeeze on household income. For many years we have ignored inflation and have kept the membership fee at the same level, despite rising printing and postage costs. A possible solution might have been to carry on printing the journal whilst implementing a steep increase of the membership fee to a realistic level, rising to £60 for single membership.

A digital journal has several advantages

  • it reduces costs
  • it is fully portable and needs no physical storage space
  • it can be read on various devices, including a mobile phone, a tablet, a computers, or even a large TV screen
  • font size and images can be enlarged easily
  • there is no environmental cost attached, compared with the carbon footprint of printing, posting and disposing of copies when people no longer need the journal
  • it is fully searchable, making it much easier to research using any keyword, including plant names, authors, places, dates, etc
  • as a digital publication it will not incur customs fees for overseas members
  • the app we will use will enable users to translate content into over 100 languages, making it more accessible to those whose first language is not English
  • the app will enable members to access the journal in audible format

Q: Why not reduce the number of pages instead, to reduce costs?

A: The Board of Trustees considered this option before making the decision to move to a digital version. Reducing the number of pages would have saved a small amount of money, but postal charges would have stayed the same, and this is one of the biggest costs in producing the Journal.

Q: What advantages are there to being a digital AGS member, if there is no printed journal?

A: As part of their membership package, those who join the AGS are able to:

  • access free, regular Zoom lectures,
  • gain free entry for them and a guest to all our Shows and Plant Fairs all over the country,
  • benefit from early access to paid events at reduced rates
  • gain exclusive access to the Seed Exchange

By supporting the AGS, which is both a plant society and a charity, members know that they have contributed to various educational, horticultural and conservation projects.

Q: How much will the printed biannual publication cost?

A: The price of the biannual publication will depend on how many members choose to purchase it. For example, if 25% of the membership want the printed journal, the approximate cost would be £5 + postage, the cost of the journal would reduce if more members ordered a copy.

Q: How will we be able to order printed journals?

A: Each year from 2024, every member will be able to go online or phone the office during June and September to pre-order their biannual printed journal.

The price of each issue will be communicated once we all orders are received. It is important to note that the journal will be sold to each member at cost price. We will also print a small surplus of each issue to sell on the website. These will be more expensive than the ones pre-ordered.

Q: Will the cost of membership increase?

A: We do not plan any large increases in membership fees. To reduce administrative costs, from 2024 we intend to offer just one membership package, regardless of where members reside. This will mean a decrease of costs for overseas members.

Q: How will the changes Affect Life Members?

A: Life members will enjoy the same access as other members to the AGS digital content. However, like everyone else, from 2024 Life Members will have to purchase printed copies of the Journal.

Q: Why should I be part of the Society if we only do things online?

A: Whilst the AGS will streamline its operations by moving them online and by offering a digital journal, it will continue to organise National Shows and Plant Fairs throughout the year. The Society will also continue to organise specialist events such as the Snowdrop Day, Bulb Day, botanical tours all over the world and a selection of other specialist events where members will be able to meet and socialise. The AGS Garden and Library at Pershore will continue to be open to members.

Q: Other societies are run by volunteers or have very few staff. Why are the AGS’s staffing costs high?

A: The AGS is different in many ways to most other small societies. We operate two limited companies, run a web shop selling books and merchandise, organise tours and operate from an office. We are going through a process of simplifying AGS operations, for example payroll savings have been made each year for the past three years and we plan to continue this trend and make the AGS far less dependent on paid staff.

Q: The Associate Editor was a main contributor to the journal; how will their contribution be replaced?

We have many members and friends of the Society who offer to write informative articles and give diversity in terms of topics and style to each new edition. We will continue to encourage new authors to send in their contribution.

Q: What other savings is the Society making in this economic climate of rising inflation?

A: We have decided to reduce office hours to Monday – Thursday, 10am to 4pm. This not only saves on payroll costs but will also reduce utility costs. We have also renegotiated various contracts with suppliers. AGS Publications Ltd will be closing; for many years this company has not made a profit.

Q: Why has there been no vote at AGM, asking members about the proposed changes?

A: Compliant with the AGS Constitution, at the AGM, the Trustees are democratically appointed by the membership to oversee and make decisions on the running of the Charity, on behalf of the membership.

Trustees are members of the AGS themselves. Any AGS member can be nominated and become a Trustee if elected at the AGM.

Q: Why not raise funds by opening members’ gardens?

A: This is something we are looking at for 2024. The deficit in the Charity is currently £150,000 every year, and whilst we could see some funds being raised from open gardens it is unlikely to make a significant different to the shortfall.

Q: Why doesn’t the AGS join forces with other societies, e.g., Cyclamen Society; or become a subgroup of HPS resulting in economy of scale. Many of us already belong to other similar plant societies

A: We already engage and work with other Societies. In future we hope to see more members of other societies attending AGS shows and events and vice-versa. At local level there are some initiatives where different groups are working together.

Q: Why is this change so rapid? Would it have been better to have brought in a gradual introduction?

A: After the pandemic, the AGS, like many other small societies has found itself in a difficult financial situation. The Society has a maximum of 5 years before funds run out and can no longer make up the shortfall in expenditure. Action is now necessary and needs to be swift. This year, each issue of the journal will communicate and explain all the changes that will be implemented to secure the future of the society.

Q: Will the journal become more mainstream to appeal to a larger section of society if we are to increase membership numbers?

A: The Journal does need to include more broad appeal articles whilst maintaining the highest standard of writing for which the journal is respected throughout the world.

Q: Spending time on Facebook and reading other digital content on a small phone is so different from reading the journal.

A: As soon as the new digital journal is available in July, we will invite members to try out the new digital journal on the various devices they own. At the AGM members were able to see a digital version of the September 2022 issue on a large TV screen, tablets and mobile phones. Feedback has been very positive.

Q: Are these changes expected to save the AGS?

A: These changes alone will not save the AGS but they will go a long way to giving us time to protect the AGS for the future. What happens next is really down to the membership and how everyone embraces the changes we had to make.