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.