The Problem with Newsstand

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Jason Snell recently wrote, over at Macworld, why Newsstand needs to go away. Jason focused mostly on the illogical nature of Newsstand: is it an app? Is it a folder? Is it two things in one?

But there are much more serious problems with Newsstand.

I have subscriptions to a half-dozen magazines through Newsstand, and I initially appreciated the convenience of reading magazines in this manner, but, lately, my frustration has led be to consider canceling most of the subscriptions.

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The problem is that magazines just don’t download easily in Newsstand. I don’t know if it’s the fault of Newsstand itself (probably not; it’s just a wrapper), the magazines’ apps, or the servers hosting the content. But I’ve found, many times, that it’s nearly impossible to download issues of magazines.

Some of my magazines work fine: this is the case for The Loop Magazine and The Magazine, both of whose issues aren’t very big, so downloads are quick. But others, such as Time and The New Yorker, often have issues over 100 MB (though The New Yorker seems to have slimmed its issues’ size recently to 50-75 MB each).

See that New Republic cover at the top left of my screenshot? I’ve been trying to download the latest issue for two days. The download starts, it progresses a bit, then stops; there are no error messages, it just reaches a point in the download and decides that it can’t go any further. That’s also a problem with The New Yorker, though, I have to say, Macworld has never caused problems with downloads. And if you stop a download, thinking that restarting it will help? Well, you have to start over from the beginning.

I like the idea of Newsstand and reading media such as magazines on my iPad. But I’m so fed up with the process not working, that I’m ready to move on. And I probably won’t get print subscriptions to these magazines either; I’ll probably just read the occasional article on the web, unless there are paywalls.

As a journalist, I really want to see this work; but as a reader, I’m aghast at how poor the user experience is. I don’t know whose fault it is, but, in the end, it’s in Apple’s interest that they get Newsstand to work.




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