September 8, 2014 Last Updated 1:19 pm

The London Review of Books comes to iOS, though in an expensive, buggy digital edition

Each Monday, TNM looks at books and book publishing. Today features a look at the first Apple Newsstand app for the British literary journal the London Review of Books

One might think that every major magazine now has a digital edition inside the Apple App Store, but this is not the case as a number of highly regarded literary magazines have held off launching an app. One of those, the London Review of Books has launched an Apple Newsstand app built by 29th Street Publishing.

LRB-iPad-coverLondon Review of Books appears in the App Store under its own developer account name, in this case LRB Limited. The previously apps from 29th Street Publishing that I have seen all appear under their name rather than the editor/publisher’s name.

The publisher’s choice of platforms makes a lot of sense as there is no real effort here to redesign the publication for digital – yet by publishing natively, the issues are very easy to read both on the iPad, as well as the iPhone.

The problems with the app are the same as with the previous digital magazine TNM looked at that used the platform, Le Sauce. The app opens to a page that says “cover art goes here” and then when one buys an issue there is a long lag between the time one taps the screen and when the dialogue box appears. When the reader completes the purchase the dialogue box asking you if you want to buy the issue continues to reappear endlessly. Only getting out of the app, or moving to a new section of the app finally kills off the dialogue box.

Once inside the issue the reader also gets hit with a dialogue box asking if they want to read the latest issue, subscribe or close. It is annoying, but does not effect the reading experience once one gets into the issue itself.

The London Review of Books (LRB) is not giving digital readers a break as single issues are £3.99 / $5.99 and an annual subscription, the only subscription option, is £74.99 / $109.99. For UK readers, this is the same price as the print edition, and the publisher is currently offering a 12 issues for £12 deal right now if they sign up for an annual subscription. In the US, readers can subscribe to the print edition for $49.95 – even better deal.

Through Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com the Kindle Edition costs £2.50 or $2.90 per month.

Looks to me like iOS device owners are getting taken advantage of.

With many bookstores closing, it is getting harder to find the LRB. The literary magazine was founded in 1979 when publication of the Times Literary Supplement was suspended. At first the publication was an insert into the New York Review of Books, but in May of 1980 the LRB became independent entity. The LRB concentrates on long form articles, not short book reviews.

As for The New York Review of Books, it is currently without an Apple Newsstand app, though they do have a Kindle Edition. One hopes to see an app for that publication soon – one similar to what the LRB has launched, but without the bugs. (Though, to be fair, it is possible that once iOS 8 launches that we will see a platform update that might take care of the issues mentioned above.)

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