Popular Science Goes (Went) iPad

… but sadly doesn’t care about your “paper” subscription or your years of loyalty. Or, do they? Could it be that Apple’s Magazine Subscription Model is strangling publishers into having to set prices so that Apple can get their 30% (if readers purchase the subscription via the device itself, from the magazine’s app), thereby eliminating any discount that the publisher might have offered the loyal, paper reading subscribers when they switched up mediums?

When getting a new iPad 2, one of the first things I wanted to do with it was put my favorite magazine on it; I wanted to experience this new concept of tablet-based magazine reading and subscription. I assumed that being subscribed to Popular Science for a couple of decades would count for something and I would get a discount when moving over to the “digital version” and maybe even the possibility of stopping delivery of my paper version to save a few trees. I assumed wrong. I had to pay the same price for an annual subscription as I would have should I had never picked up and purchased a Popular Science magazine in my entire life. Paper subscribers are required to buy a whole new digital subscription. It would seem logical to assume that a publisher would want to reward their current, long-term subs by allowing them to purchase the subscription at discount. Apple’s model likely precludes this. There is probably not even a feature that allows it and the publishers can’t offer one as Apple is taking 30% of the cut because I bought the subscription via the magazine’s “free app.”

Having first-time readers and decade long subscribers have to pay the same price when originally purchasing or when switching over to the digital subscription, respectively, is a bitter pill for those of us that have had subscriptions for generations, my family for example. Again, I am aware that dealing with Apple’s subscription model was probably hard enough — for now. But, both Apple and PopSci have hurdled that first milestone. And, while I respect both companies, it just seems like there is work yet to be done. One, don’t make PopSci’s long-term subs feel like they’ve been forgotten about, especially knowing that technology like the iPad would be adopted by most of them. Subscriptions, both digital and paper, should be bound to each other; or, the subscriber should at least be able to tie both paper and digital subscriptions to any one reader that might be taking advantage of both. Currently, it does not appear that this is being done — by Apple or Pop Sci. Or, if it is, it is not apparent. Two, why continue sending subs a paper subscription when it’s possibly no longer desired? For the sake of the environment, the option should at least be provided.

With how far things have come technically, at times, huge advances seem to be mired by features that seem contradictory to the advancement. Subscriptions can’t be known and linked? Paper can’t be replaced for bits and touch-screens, exclusively? I know they can be:

“Next Issue Media is looking to expand its tablet-based readership to Android users, as well. Beginning tomorrow, people who bought a wireless-enabled Samsung Galaxy Tab from Verizon will be able to purchase single copies of, or monthly subscriptions to seven magazines from the so-called “Hulu of Magazines,” which includes Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, Time Inc., and News Corp. Users already subscribing to print editions will receive free digital subscriptions, though they won’t be able to purchase both print and digital combo packages (that’s on the way). Publishers, meanwhile, will be able to set their own prices and, according to Next Issue CEO Morgan Guenther, will receive “at least” 70-percent of all transactions — the same percentage that Apple offers. Under this new Android deal, however, all of Next Issue’s members will be able to freely access their subscribers’ credit card information and other personal data — something that Apple has steadfastly denied them.”. — Engadget, May 2011

So, at present, it’s obvious that some publishers are thinking a bit more forward when it comes to their digital models and what to do with their current readers and paper subscriptions once the reader has transitioned, digitally. It’s just amazing to me that both Apple and Popular Science seemed to ignore or not make known these important aspects when creating what is a fantastic, beautiful, and immersive “digital magazine.”

I hope PopSci can appreciate this. I don’t mean to be critical of them, but I know I can’t be the only long-term reader who’s a bit puzzled by the current digital subscription model.

Let Popular Science know what you think at: letters (at) PopSci.com

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