Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bye-bye, New Yorker

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a regular reader of the New Yorker. Until a few weeks ago, practically all of the magazine was available for free online, so I simply read everything online and provided gift subscriptions to friends in the US in return. The US annual subscription price is 40 dollars, whereas the international subscription rate is 120 dollars – and I do not need to hold the thing in my hand. Reading the articles online was fine for me; after all, I sit at my screen all day anyway.

But a few weeks ago, the New Yorker started charging for access to many full articles; only abstracts are online for free. So I signed up for the "digital edition," which costs the same as the US postal subscription, but you do not get anything in the mail. Essentially, it's what I wanted at Harpers, but they don't offer it.

Unfortunately, the digital edition of the New Yorker is a travesty. Check that first screenshot above from a 24-inch screen (click to enlarge) – this is what you see. They have essentially scanned in the print version, so you get a full two-page layout (I cannot find a way to make this thing visible as a single page), and the writing is simply too small to read. There is also no full-screen version; that you get both pages at a time on a part of your screen.

Granted, you can zoom in (see screenshot to the right), but the page is not scrollable; you have to drag the page down, and in doing so you need to be careful not to shift left and right too much lest you lose the beginnings or endings of columns. Need I point out that the three-column format, which may be useful in print versions where you can easily follow a column all the way down the page, is worthless on modern computers, whose screens are almost always much wider than they are long. Also, the text is no longer accessible as such; you are looking at an image – a major drawback for a blogger like me, who enjoys copying and pasting sections.

Of course, I could buy myself an iPad, but each issue there costs $4.99, which essentially means that you pay 250 dollars for an annual subscription – twice as much as for the international edition. And I'm not even sure that that offer is open to me over here in Europe. I own a Kindle, and although the New Yorker is available there, it is not available in Europe. I'm sure that licensing is the problem, but these publishers are shooting themselves in the foot. They complain about us not wanting to pay, but then they make illegal versions attractive by restricting access so much.

In short, this year my annual donation to the New Yorker does not go out as a subscription to anyone, but rather as digital access for myself, but I cannot use it. The New Yorker makes it practically impossible for me to read the magazine. They could have simply provided subscribers with access to an HTML page with the text. I was happy reading everything like that up to now. Hell, they could have made this readable via RSS or sent me the text by e-mail. I wouldn't have minded.

So if the authors of the New Yorker start complaining about how readers are not willing to pay for content, I will probably not even realize that they are complaining because I will no longer be reading the magazine even though I have a paid subscription.

1 comment:

  1. Just to point out: if you have an American credit card and therefore an American billing address, with an international Kindle one can subscribe to/buy Kindle items from the American market.