The New Yorker App

Dedicated readers of the New Yorker who are both pragmatic and digitally proficient have been waiting for the New Yorker’s iPad App ever since the hefty gadget flew into the Apple Store. Earlier this week they learned that the App had gone public and could now be downloaded to the iPad. But once they took a look how to obtain the first issue, a loud groan could be heard throughout the land.

While the entire magazine, ads, cartoons, What’s Going On, articles, essays, the works are there, something is still missing. And what is missing is free access.

To read each weekly issue the moment it hits the newsstands in New York will cost you $5.00. So if you are a subscriber, you not only will be paying the weekly cost of the print edition, but an additional $5.00 per issue for the electronic version.

Imagine the furor. The following comments were made in response to the magazine’s online announcement of the App.

I am astonished that Conde Nast believes I should pay for my subscription twice. That's dumb.

Is Condé Nast seriously expecting that I and other subscribers will rather pay $4.99 than simply bringing along the actual magazine? I'd be happy to pay for the app or an additional subscription fee, but not at this price.

I love The New Yorker and I love my Ipad but sadly at five bucks a pop, never the two shall meet! A very long time subscriber

Like others, I'd like to see free access for subscribers. I live overseas. It takes 2-3 weeks beyond the normal delivery time for me to receive each issue. And now I'm moving to Afghanistan. I'd love to see an iPad subscription option that would allow me to get the issues on-time. You can even charge the same amount and pocket the international postage fees!

What is one to do? For non-subscribers, it’s not a bad deal, as the newsstand price of each issue is $5.99. It’s not a great deal either even with the modest discount for readers who belong to the Borders or Barnes & Noble membership program.

For current subscribers it does present a dilemma. They will have to decide how important it is to pay the additional $5 per issue. Is the magazine worth it today? I don’t think so, although I might have responded differently in the days before the electronic age.

As the subscriber who is moving to Afghanistan indicated, it is simply a matter of how long can you wait. Waiting two or three weeks for an overseas resident might make it worthwhile to pay for the instantly arrive iPad issue and almost as worthwhile for subscribers on the West Coast where it doesn’t arrive until Friday or Saturday. And for those who live on an island in the middle of the ocean, as I do now, where the magazine eventually drifts in with the prevailing trade winds, it might be a good deal. But first I have to buy an iPad and I’ve been mulling that over for months now and will probably continue to do so for many more.

Ideally the New Yorker could offer readers an option to subscribe to the App instead of the print copy and Conde Nast says, they hope to be able to have this option “before too long.” But knowing Conde Nast and the nature of their business, I wouldn’t bet my penny collection on that happening.

While the App may be aesthetically pleasing and a complete version of the print edition that can be read almost immediately after it is published, consider what cannot be done with it. You cannot easily underline (highlight) passages. You cannot make notes in the margins. You cannot cut out funny cartoons or articles worth saving. For a reader who likes to do all these things, the App is a bare approximation of the original and scarcely worth an additional $5 per issue.

And in the final analysis it’s all a matter of how patient you are. As Saint Augustine said when faced with this dilemma, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.”