Thursday, November 29, 2012

Foreign Affairs comes to the Apple Newsstand as a replica (and priced much higher than the Kindle Edition)

One of the reasons I consider myself not dogmatic when it comes to the issue of replica versus native designs for tablet editions is that I know that there are several situations where a replica solution might be appropriate – vast archives of back issues, for instance.

Another situation would be where the design of the print magazine is very close to the size and shape of the tablet's display – Reader's Digest comes to mind. So does the foreign policy magazine Foreign Affairs.

Last night the first tablet edition from the Council on Foreign Relations, the think tank behind Foreign Affairs, has released its first iPad edition.

The problem with the iPad version of Foreign Affairs is not so much that it is a replica edition of the print magazine so much as it is a rip off versus the Kindle Edition.
Foreign Affairs is a book-sized magazine that would, at first blush, be a perfect candidate for an iPad edition without much changes. But where most replica editions replicate the advertising well, but reproduce the editorial badly, the opposite is true here. The editorial pages work fine because the text heavy pages line up pretty much one-to-one so that pinch to zoom only has to be used if you are without your reading glasses.

But the ad pages do not work because a few of them are two-page spreads. But those are rare to be sure as Foreign Affairs is mostly reliant on subscriptions and single copy sales for its revenue.

The iPad edition is priced at $7.99 per issue, the same price as is found in Google Play. Online a reader can buy a PDF of the issue for $7.95. But on one can buy the Kindle Edition for $2.99.

This is precisely the sort of pricing shenanigans Steve Jobs wanted to avoid when Apple first set its pricing policies – it did not want to be undercut, especially when the iPad or iPhone version was no better than a replica or what could be found in the Android or Kindle version.

Readers would be better off buying the Kindle Edition and reading Foreign Affairs through the Kindle app.