On his blog at Forbes, Jeff Bercovici brings up another reason that magazine tablet apps may not be as good an idea as they would seem. According to digital design firm founder David Link, they can be as costly to publishers as putting them out in paper, if not more so. The reason for this is that the apps’ hefty size also incurs hefty bandwidth charges.

Unlike e-books, magazines tend to need a lot of pictures and graphic design elements. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a picture that was the same file size as a thousand words would be pretty low-resolution stuff. The slick, graphical nature of these publications is the very thing that makes a magazine a magazine.

If they’re sold through Apple’s app store, of course, bandwidth is not a concern, since Apple eats those costs itself. But a lot of publishers are fed up with Apple’s controlling ways and are seeking other marketplaces—and those marketplaces come with bandwidth charges. When most iPad magazines range from 80 to 250 megabytes, with Wired’s weighing in at 500 megabytes per issue, those can be some pretty hefty fees.

Of course, bandwidth costs will go down over time, and the ability to target media-rich advertising may go a long way toward offsetting those costs, but for the moment many of these apps are starting to look an awful lot like white elephants.


  1. The thing to point out in this article is that there are two factors into the bandwidth issue. File size of the magazine and the cost to the magazine for the bandwidth. The author only cited the file size and not how much bandwidth costs. I may be wrong, but doesn’t bandwidth typically cost $0.10-$0.15 per gigabyte? If a magazine is 250MB, how is that more expensive than the cost of postage? I can see that the cost of the magazine to produce would be a bit more expensive for the publisher to design and they probably have to pay more for the photographs and videos. However, to attribute the higher cost of digital magazines to bandwidth may not be the most logical.

  2. Apple’s controlling ways are what Apple users depend on to keep quality up. Publishers who find that too much are better off going somewhere else and supplying Android users who have no one to control quality.
    Apple’s controlling ways is industry code for admitting incompetence and lack of quality control.

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