Notes on Amazon Killing Electronic Subscriptions

I’ve been reading Asimov’s Science Fiction for decades. Back when I still had hope and hair, I dreamed of being published therein. I no longer submit to slushpiles, but almost every issue I discover a meatspace friend in its table of contents.

Maybe ten years ago, I switched my subscription from paper to electronic via Amazon. I do all of my fiction reading on a backlit e-ink device. E-ink is a much better reading experience than a screen, especially for us voracious readers. I don’t want the print edition; not only is the font size not adjustable, I’m stuck with a stack of paper. (I still read a lot of nonfiction in paper, especially if I want to highlight and make marginalia and leave bookmarks everywhere.)

Amazon’s Kindle program has stopped supporting magazine subscriptions. Many magazines have been shoved into Kindle Unlimited. (There’s discussion that the individual issues will only be available through KU, not for regular purchase, but I’m having difficulty confirming that.) Neil Clarke has an excellent discussion of how this might put several magazines out of business.

Today, I looked for a way to continue my Asimov’s subscription electronically. In addition to KU, Asimov’s is available through Barnes & Noble and Magzter. Magzter is a tablet app that uses a proprietary format, and not suitable for an e-ink device. B&N does epubs, but I’d have to either purchase and carry around a whole new device or strip the DRM to move it to my current device.

Penny Publications, Asimov’s publisher, does not have a direct electronic subscription option or even a “buy this issue in ebook” option. If a doofus like me can manage it, surely Penny Publications could.

So I guess I’ll be picking up the odd issue of my favorite magazine when I think of it. If that’s still an option.

Why did Amazon stop supporting subscriptions? To force subscribers to sign up for Kindle Unlimited, and to pay magazines less for their content. Amazon has recently made several changes that make them less friendly to readers and publishers alike. While I have chosen to reject their electronic publishing deal for new nonfiction titles, I don’t condemn other publishers for succumbing. Amazon has monopoly and monopsony power. The magazine has decided that they’d rather take a fifty percent reduction in income than lose everything. I’m certain I’ve lost money by not having OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems available in the Kindle store, and I will lose still more by not having Run Your Own Mail Server in there–but the alternative is unacceptable. Amazon’s goal is to reduce the price of writing to almost nothing, and will continue increasing the pressure on creators until we capitulate or leave.

I encourage you to buy direct from authors and/or publishers whenever possible (cough)my store(cough).

And when this device dies I’m buying a Kobo. They don’t carry Asimov’s either, but they’re much more friendly to sideloaded content and understand that their customers want to read.

2 Replies to “Notes on Amazon Killing Electronic Subscriptions”

  1. I had a backlit eink Nook tablet for a while. I chose the Nook because it’s more friendly to outside sourced books than it’s (realistically only) competitor.
    I really enjoyed it until I dropped it from my bed to a carpet, (maybe 30″?) but it must have hit the corner of a book on the way down because now there’s a run in the screen. Yes, a run as someone who wears nylons would be familiar with. Apparently the material they use to scatter the backlight evenly is similar in construction to nylons, of similar durability, and is mounted on the front of the screen.
    It’s still usable with the backlight off, but if I turn the backlight on there’s a huge lightning bolt in the middle off the screen which makes it impossible to read.
    Now I have a backlit Kindle, which I don’t like as much as it means more work for me to load the material I like to read, but it’s been bullet proof so far.
    The Kobo might be a realistic option, but I’m cheap and likely won’t be buying a new device until this one stops working.

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