What happens to your money when an Apple Newsstand publication is cancelled?

As I recently wrote, Tap! magazine was cancelled. As always with Future Publishing, you get a single-page PDF alongside the final issue, stating that because no more issues are being released, you should seek a refund. I’d not tried this in the past with any publisher, because the amounts had been tiny (I’d been fortunate in mag cancellations almost coinciding with the end of a subscription period), but my Tap! subscription refreshed only a month or so ago.

I duly wrote to iTunes support as follows:

Future Publishing has stated Tap! has ceased publication and no new issues are going to be released. I am therefore writing to get a refund for my outstanding subscription.

A couple of hours later, I got an email from customer support:

Craig, I’m delighted to inform you that under the circumstances, I’ve determined that a refund is appropriate.

Job done. Only then on Twitter, someone mentioned this hadn’t happened for them. Instead, they were told the refund request was carefully considered”; however:

[…] according to the iTunes Store Terms of Sale, all purchases made on the iTunes Store are final. This policy matches Apple’s refund policies and provides protection for copyrighted materials.

So, which is it? Are Newsstand subscriptions ‘final’ purchases where your money vanishes if a publication does? Are you entitled to a refund? Is it all just a crapshoot, depending on which person deals with your support request?

Right now, despite my good experience, I can’t say I’m full of confidence regarding Newsstand beyond monthly subscriptions. I’ll certainly not be taking out another annual one until Apple confirms one way or another what the state of play is. If Apple PR responds to my email, I’ll update this article accordingly.

July 23, 2013. Read more in: Apple, Magazines

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Tap! magazine: so long and thanks for all the fish

It was September or October 2010 when I got a call from Christopher Phin. I’m not sure where he was, but it was very loud and I couldn’t make out much of what he was saying. Still, I did manage to hear something about “iPhone” and “magazine” and “Would you like to edit the games section?”.

A couple of weeks later, I popped over to Bath (home of Future Publishing HQ), we bashed heads, and we set about crafting that part of the magazine. I was very keen to ensure the games section covered big hitters but also indie software, and was entertaining and fun to read. I wanted to bring back some of the irreverence that I used to enjoy so much when reading games mags of old. Wonderfully, Christopher totally agreed—I recall many of our notes being almost identical—and off we went. Issue one arrived, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been quite so excited to receive a copy of a publication I’d worked on.

As the issues flew by, we fashioned a little team of fantastic games writers, and we really invested in everything we covered, spending far too many hours immersed in digital touchscreen-controlled worlds. Some of our reviews decidedly bucked the trend, but they were always honest. Often, they were also brilliant fun to read. Additionally, we got the chance to round up some of our favourites in our ‘if you loved…’ articles, which Apple’s just started doing itself on the App Store. It was so much fun.

If this all sounds like a memorial, that’s because it is. Tap! magazine is no more, and issue 32 (August 2013) is the final edition. Needless to say that I’m gutted, but also immensely proud of what the team managed to do. I’d therefore like to sincerely thank Christopher for giving me the opportunity on the mag, Matthew Bolton for his help and enthusiasm over many issues, and Christian Hall for being a brilliant editor when Christopher was installed as the new head honcho over at MacFormat. Also, thanks to Tom Harrod for making sure my words were in the right order, and also to everyone who contributed to the games pages. You were all fantastic, and I shall miss working with you so much.

So, here’s to you, Tap! You were brilliant. And if anyone out there’s thinking “man, we right now totally need some British guy who used to edit a games section to write about iOS games for us, at least if he can tear himself away from Impossible Road for five whole seconds,” drop me a line at craiggrannell@googlemail.com.

 

July 19, 2013. Read more in: Tap!

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Dear the internet: yes, digital magazines do cost money to create

One of the UK’s Mac magazines, MacFormat, which I regularly write for, just unleashed its new digital version on the App Store. On the iPad, it uses the same underlying framework as the spiffy Tap! magazine, making for an entertaining and interactive experience. Hurrah! So, inevitably, people are already bitching about it on the App Store. Here are two choice one-star reviews:

4.99 for a digital version? They are pricing themselves out of the digital magazine market! I have contacted them personally about the pricing structure before. However they have not replied and seemingly not interested in what I have to say.

Gosh, I wonder why?

No paper cost, No press cost, No postage cost and it is £44.99
NO THANKS
If I subscribe the magazine version I get the magazine and the downloadable pdf to read on any computing device including iPad, now tel me why digital iPad version is so pricy. Yo must think Whether you are too cleaver or iPad users are so stupid.

Yeah, those MacFormat guys think they are far too ‘cleaver’ for us mere mortals, taking our cash and rolling around naked on £50 notes, laughing maniacally. Or perhaps, just perhaps, digital magazines actually cost money to produce too? Maybe, when it comes down to it, paper/printing/mailing isn’t actually such a massive chunk of production costs as wages, paid to the people that plan, write and edit each edition? Just possibly, there’s the teeny tiny issue of interactive content (videos, touch interfaces, ’3D’ photography elements) actually taking time and therefore costing money to create? And, clearly, being a quid cheaper for a single issue than on the newsstand (or two-quid if you take out the rolling one-month subscription) is just wrong, too. At the very most, the magazine should obviously be free, because it’s created by magic editorial elves, who don’t need to eat and pay their mortgages. Really, MacFormat should be paying us a crisp tenner every time we download an issue, because, man, we paid for this expensive iPad hardware and, DAMMIT, we are entitled! We deserve free things! We don’t understand how magazines work and that people need to be paid! And so on!

Also, just to prove they’re entirely evil, MacFormat’s also gone half-price for a short period of time, giving you single issues for £2.49 and a year’s subscription for £24. Those utter, utter bastards.

UPDATE: I’m informed by MacFormat’s production editor that the half-price offer only relates to the current issue, which is £1.49 instead of £2.99. The £24 subscription—that’s a permanent deal, but wasn’t reflected in App Store details when the new issue went live.  Naturally, some people are still complaining that figure’s too high.

July 18, 2012. Read more in: MacFormat

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This is why we can’t have nice things

I yesterday wrote about Tap! magazine, largely about the editor’s belief that you can’t just review iOS apps in a few minutes. However, he also showed off the accelerometer-aware cover. Sure enough, one of the commenters got all angry about this:

It’s “accelerometer aware”…. who actually gives a **** about this? It “organically appears” … please, just show the damn content! What a bunch of pretentious bollocks.

One of the best things about Tap! is the manner in which the team has experimented with a new medium. Sure, you don’t need to have an accelerometer-aware cover. Similarly, last issue, the in-house guys didn’t need to animate my Plants vs. Zombies How To Win feature and Graham Barlow’s cover feature on apps and games for kids. But these things are nice-to-haves (similar to—although not identical to—layout flourishes in print magazines that go beyond pure readability), and Chris Phin in the video comes across like a proud craftsman, showing off his team’s work, the result of their trying new things and experimenting with a nascent medium.

Sure, the video could have just flipped through every page, which would have been boring as hell, much in the same way Tap! could have reformatted itself as ‘Instapaper with pictures’, which wouldn’t have been nearly as appealing as a magazine that begs to be interacted with and that’s trying to do something new rather than remain rooted in the past of magazines and newspapers.

July 13, 2012. Read more in: Apple, Tap!

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It really annoys me when I see people reviewing iOS apps badly

Editor Chris Phin previews the latest edition of Tap! magazine on YouTube, but along with showing what’s inside, he also provides some thinking on iOS reviews in general:

It actually really annoys me when I see people reviewing iOS apps badly. It’s easy to just read an App Store description and tag on a mealy-mouthed, not very definitive verdict at the end of that.

This is something that I’m finding’s becoming increasingly common. I’ll often see reviews of iOS games and apps that make judgment calls that only relate to a few minutes’ use. In Tap!, Chris notes that we don’t do this (I’m the games editor, as regular readers here will know), spending hours with games and apps, to make sure we provide a verdict that comes from extended use, not just a quick look. In some cases—*cough*Hero Academy*cough*—we perhaps spend a bit too much time on a single product, but there you go.

Still, this isn’t the only thing that annoys me from a Tap! perspective. People still bang on about magazines being rubbish on the iPad (something I wrote about in March) and, more recently, argue the iPad’s corner in terms of content creation. Bizarrely, Tap! almost never gets a mention, despite being a magazine designed specifically for the iPad and that’s actually put together on an iPad and in the iPad simulator on a Mac. (More on Tap!’s creation can be found in this YouTube video.)

It frustrates me that Tap! isn’t more well known, but delights me when I receive feedback from readers, which is almost universally positive. If you own an iPad and fancy checking out Tap!’s reviews, features, and the developer section (by the amazingly talented Matt Gemmell), grab a copy from http://tapm.ag/appedition. Individual issues are three quid, but there are a also a few previews that let you try before you buy.

July 12, 2012. Read more in: Apple, Tap!

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