The first issue of what is described in a press release as "the first digital street paper edition" goes on sale in Manchester on Monday (29 October) and will roll out across the north of England in the coming weeks.
Big Issue customers wanting to go digital will buy an access card with a QR code that can be scanned using a smartphone, tablet or other device. A digital edition will then be downloaded from the Big Issue in the North site.
The digital edition is read by a horizontal swipe, whether read on a desktop, laptop or phone.
The print edition of the Big Issue in the North, which was launched in Manchester in 1992, and the digital edition will be sold at the same price, with the QR card system set up to retain the "crucial vendor-buyer contact on the streets".
The Big Issue was launched to "help homeless and vulnerably housed people earn a dignified income". The first street paper was launched in New York in the late 1980s and there are now more than 120 different titles now published in 40 countries, the release states.
It adds: "With media consumption patterns rapidly shifting from print to digital, UK-based charity INSP (International Network of Street Papers) has been looking for a way to take the concept into the 21st century and provide a lifeline to the growing numbers of urban homeless."
Big Issue vendors buy the magazine and digital access cards for £1 and sell them for £2 keeping the £1 profit.
If this pilot is successful, a similar system will be rolled out in other areas, the release adds.
Caroline Price, director, at the Big Issue in the North said in a statement: "Manchester is the right place to trial the world's first digital street newspaper; we are a digitally savvy city with a vibrant young community who we hope will support this initiative. "This is not about replacing our traditional print magazine; it is about moving with the times and giving people a choice in how they read the magazine.”