collects stories and ideas from John Kelly

Digital Convenience

The New Yorker iPad app is out now. The app itself costs nothing, but the actual issues you buy through the app are $4.99 each. This is reasonable enough. I have a feeling we’ll see more magazines move to a similar model in the next year or so. From a publisher point of view, there are no more worries about printing and distribution costs. From an end-user point of view, there are no more worries about availability. Edge magazine, for example, is a right royal pain in the dick to get a hold of if you’re not living in the UK. With an iPad app, you’re getting all the content, in much the same format, with (potential) access to the entire back-catalogue at the touch of a button, with virtually no footprint for either the publisher or readermy collection of Edge magazine – going back 16 years or so – takes up an enormous amount of space. Win-win.

Except for people who are already subscribers, that is. As Kottke points out:

Current magazine subscribers appear to have no option but to buy a completely separate issue if they wish to read the magazine on the iPad. As a subscriber, what exactly am I paying for if I already have the content in magazine form? Is the $4.99 simply a convenience fee?

One of the things I really liked about David Wellington’s Monster Island was that it was also available online. When I was in work and didn’t have the book with me, I could just go to Wellington’s website and take up where I left off. I suppose the same could be said of any of Cory Doctorow’s books as well. Although I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, I have a physical copy of Makers on my bookshelf and a digital copy of on my e-reader.

As things like smart phones and e-readers become more and more a part of our everyday life, I would love to see us get to stage where buying a physical copy of a thing – movies, magazines, films – entitles you to a digital copy of the thing as well. We’re sort of seeing this with blu-ray, where a lot of discs come bundled with a digital copy of the film as wellThen again, in most cases, that’s being implemented in such a half-assed, braindead way (where the ‘digital edition’ it comes bundled with is just an access key to download a copy once) it makes you wonder if the movie studios aren’t deliberately sabotaging this effort so they can say “look! There’s no demand for the digital edition!”.