The Talk of the App Store
With its latest issue, Conde Nast's The New Yorker has become the first magazine to sign up with Apple's in-app subscription system. New readers can buy short-term or long-term subscriptions directly through the app, or they can buy single editions. The setup process is smooth, and the app's layout and content navigation are easy and intuitive.
At times I think some magazines and newspapers are making the act of getting their content on an iPad a little more difficult than it has to be. It seems each time a major periodical launches its new iPad app, it has to give a long talk to explain how exactly it expects readers to pay for it. New readers need to do this; if you have a subscription to the print edition already, you'll need to do that. If you have a subscription to the online edition and you want the iPad edition also, fill out these forms on this site, and if you want to trade your online and print subscriptions into iPad-only access, please scan last week's issue, upload it to our server as a PDF, and use this table to figure out the prorated refund figure, less taxes deducted, of course.
One reason for that might have to do with publishers' attempts to (sometimes awkwardly) work around the fact that until recently, a reader couldn't initiate a subscription directly through an app. They could buy a single issue through an app. If they were already a print subscriber they could prove that to the app somehow and gain regular access. But an eager though uninitiated reader couldn't just get the app and immediately be drawn into subscriberhood.
But The New Yorker is the first magazine to jump on-board with Apple's in-app subscription system. From the publisher's perspective, this might have been a difficult decision, given the revenue cut Apple demands from each subscription sold through its system. But from a reader's perspective, it makes things easy.
To put it simply: If you're already a New Yorker subscriber, you're in. No extra fees. Just tell them your mailing address, make a logon and password if you don't have them yet, and you have full access. If you want to start a subscription to the iPad edition, you can jump in for a full year at $60 or take it month-by-month for $6, which gets you about four issues. Both renew automatically.
And if you want a single issue, that's an option too. They cost $5, a buck off the newsstand price.
Flipping the Page
Once you've made your arrangements, you'll need to learn the magazine's navigation system. Lots of apps have video tutorials, but most of the time production values are scant. I can't say I've ever been disappointed that a tutorial has been done cheaply, though. All they're there to do is give you a basic idea of how to use the software. Apparently that simply would not do for The New Yorker, so it enlisted actor Jason Schwartzman and director Roman Coppola to guide you through.
Besides the tutorial, the first thing you see will be a gallery of covers for the past several weeks -- mine extended back to Oct. 11, 2010. Non-subscribers have the option to buy; a subscriber can freely select from among the issues published during the time that subscription has been active.
Once you choose an issue, it begins downloading into your iPad; a standard-sized issue is about 130 MB. It's one of the great advantages of reading a periodical through an app like this rather than through a website, even if the site's giving you full, behind-the-paywall access. By downloading the full contents of an issue, you won't lose the ability to read if you lose Internet access -- say, while riding on a plane.
Select an issue for viewing, and you start with the cover (with cover lines when held in landscape mode). Swiping horizontally flips through the "pages" from front to back, something like an e-book. You will see ads -- but only full-page ads, not the marginal ones lining the outer edges of the magazine's print edition. The ads also aren't linked, so there's no danger of a clumsy swipe turning into an accidental and annoying browser launch.
When you come to an article or any page than extends below the bottom of the screen, you then scroll vertically to "turn the page." For example, if I scroll to the right and find a 9-page article on Osama Bin Laden, I can scroll down to read it, or scroll right again to go immediately to the next article.
The magazine is fully functional in both landscape and portrait modes. Sounds obvious, but other magazines have had trouble with that. It can be difficult sometimes to design a page layout that looks great on a page and in either iPad orientation. The New Yorker's typically staid design probably helps in that regard. It's not as difficult to teach an app how to rearrange a page automatically when there are no wild designs or mammoth photo spreads to deal with.
Touch the top or bottom edge of the screen, and your control panel pops up. Below you'll get a bar to fast-scroll through the pages of the magazine. Up top, you can return to your library, jump back to the last page you were looking at, or get a full table of contents. There's also an option for viewing the whole issue's contents in a sort of step-back, big-picture mode.
In print, The New Yorker's longer article layouts are typically broken up with photos, comics, poetry, etc. The photos remain, but each poem (some of which include a recorded reading by the author) constitutes its own article in the iPad layout.
The comics, though, get extra-special treatment. They're sprinkled into the article's text, just like what you'd see if you were reading the print edition. But each iPad issue also features a comic gallery, so if you're just here for the funny pages, you can find them all in one place.
The New Yorker's iPad app doesn't appear to offer much in the way of extra features and special multimedia content that you can't get in a paper edition. That's very much OK. Some magazines do that, but it can sometimes come off as gimmicky, unnecessary and obnoxious.
Instead, The New Yorker for iPad places its entire magazine in a neat and orderly package that's easily skimmed and read on the device. Its Apple-backed subscription system breezes you through the process, layout and navigation need no tutorial to understand (though you probably shouldn't miss the video anyway), and the price shaves just enough off the cost of a print edition.