Why I won’t keep my digital copy of The New Yorker
I would like to tell you how I came to love The New Yorker. It feels to me like that would be the right thing to do beforehand, when my goal, as the title suggests, is to tell you why I won’t buy the product I came to love. By doing so, I could perhaps clarify why I bother to write an extensive text about things I don’t want to do.
The thing, however, is, I can’t remember.
I can’t recall the first article I read in The New Yorker, nor when and where I first heard of it. Somehow, somewhen during the past two years of my life, when I began to read English media, it became part of my learning routine. The website, that is.
I live in southern Germany. To this day, I have found but one shop where I can buy The New Yorker, and there it costs an exorbitant 13,90€, not quite twice the amount I would pay in the USA. Plus, I had to drive to the other end of the city to get the thing. Every once in a while I treated myself to an issue that was particularly interesting, but before long, I was looking for a way to subscribe and get my issues conveniently delivered at an affordable price.
Back then, there was already an option to subscribe for non-residents of the USA, and I was delighted to see that there even was a digital plan that would both save me some more money and avoid the necessity to fly a magazine across half the world once a week so I could read about what was going on in a town I was very likely never going to visit. I don’t own a credit card, though, and that was that.
No New Yorker for me.
I complained on Twitter without ever getting an answer. I kept checking for new payment methods every month or so. In the meanwhile, I stayed loyal to the website and the free articles I could get there and still allowed myself a printed issue every now and then.
Three days ago, I saw that there was now a PayPal button available on the subscription page. I rejoiced and ordered immediately.
I think 90$ a year is a very fair price, especially considering access to the archives, which allow me to relive and better comprehend a vast variety of most exceptional eras, from the years after World War I, to the rise of fascism in my homeland, to the Cold War and much more. I could contribute to the voice of liberalism that is direly, if not desperately, needed these days, even though I can’t afford much.
The reason I won’t keep up my subscription is entirely disjointed from the quality of the product itself.
I used to work as a software developer for some years and I’m sort of a choleric type. When I failed to create a smooth and intuitive user experience in my applications, or when I noticed flaws in other peoples’ work, I would employ a sweeping miscellany of expletives to describe my own or others’ incompetence, especially in cases where it was obvious how things should work, but didn’t.
Today I work for a newspaper, and much like The New Yorker, we offer a digital version of our product to be read on small and large devices.
I know it’s hard to create good software, and I can imagine how much of a torment it must be to attempt to port the experience of a printed magazine into a program for modern devices. There is a lot of work to do, and I’m almost certain that in the forthcoming decades, print media will almost entirely disappear.
The New Yorker is already pretty good at supplying its content to digital devices. For example, this is what I get when I open the latest issue in Google Play Newsstand:
Here I can choose any of the big topics in that issue and get provided with a proper, adjusted version of the article, made to fit my device, a phone, perfectly. Through this app, the articles are even better readable than their counterparts on the website. This is great.
By swiping to the left or right I can page through the magazine and read more. I even get provided with properly adjusted, high-quality images of the ads placed in the magazine, at the same place where I’d find them in the printed version.
Unfortunately, while ads are there, only major articles are available in such format. Those which aren’t, are available, too, of course, through the issue provided by Newsstand, but only as a scan of the original magazine. This is how I can preview all pages that are part of the issue I’m currently reading:
As you can see, what should follow after the ad I displayed above, is an article called “L.A. Rhapsody”. It doesn’t though. If I swipe to the left after the ad, the next thing that shows up is The Talk Of The Town, 12 pages further. The rest is skipped. I can still read it by switching to the scan, but this isn’t quite the same reading experience anymore. It’s okay if I’m reading on my laptop, but on my phone, it’s not much fun.
I cannot fathom why advertisements are digitalized and adjusted to be shown in the best possible way when at the same time, the content for which I buy the product, is only rudimentary available. Perhaps this wouldn’t bother me as much if only the scanned images were of greater quality. At the moment, I find the text to be blurry and very small, though, so that large portions of each issue are rendered unenjoyable on devices with small screens.
I will unsubscribe to the digital plan. I’m considering whether or not I should order the printed version to get delivered to my home, but the environmental factor is discouraging me. After all, I can read the most intriguing articles for free online, in most cases.
I would like to further support what is one of my favorite magazines in the future, and I hope that there will come a time that technology is advanced enough to spare ourselves the need to waste huge amounts of paper on ephemeral issues.
On the other hand, I’m fed up with Germany anyway, and should maybe consider moving to the States where I could grab The New Yorker on every corner and learn better and more than I could ever hope to achieve here. Too bad that I seem to have chosen the most inappropriate time to become an immigrant in all respects.