Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Condé Nast's iPad Apps Are Too Portly. Blame Adobe.

The Wired iPad app has a weight problem.

The first one came in at about half a gigabyte of memory, and it hasn’t shrunk that much since.

And Condé Nast’s newest iPad app, from the New Yorker, isn’t much better: It takes up 173 megabytes–but that’s for a weekly issue. If Condé can’t slim the app down, a month’s worth of New Yorkers will be much heavier than the first monthly Wired app.

And at that rate, a year’s worth of issues would consume more than seven gigabytes–that’s close to half of the smallest iPad’s 16-gig memory capacity.

No problem, says New Yorker Deputy Editor Pam McCarthy, who oversaw the production of the new app. She says it’s going on a diet, soon.

Both the New Yorker and Wired have the same weight problem for the same reason: They are built on the back of an Adobe (ADBE) program that essentially functions as an image reader.

That is, each page of the magazine is turned into the equivalent of several big photos. Which means an image-rich layout at Wired or a page of text at the New Yorker both consume a lot of memory.

The New Yorker could fix that overnight by presenting the text using HTML code, McCarthy says. That would use much less memory and allow the magazine to do things like resize the type. But for the moment, Adobe doesn’t have the ability to break up HTML text into individual pages. Instead, the text scrolls down the screen, a la the popular Instapaper app.

That sounds pretty good to me, but McCarthy says it’s not a good way to read the very long pieces her magazine is famous for. “It’s pretty clear that when you have a 10,000-word story, smooth scrolling is not a good option,” she says.

So for now, the New Yorker presents small items, like its “Talk of the Town” pieces, via HTML, and presents its long stories on individual pages. Once Adobe figures out how to break up HTML text into individual pages, McCarthy will make the switch, she says. Perhaps in a month.

“The goal is to be all HTML, and we will be,” she says.


But take note, grumblers: You probably still won’t be able to download the magazine wirelessly. Apple caps wireless app downloads at 20 megabytes, and the app is unlikely to shrink that much soon, which means you’re going to need a Wi-Fi connection to get your hands on the app.

And the fact that Condé Nast can’t yet sell subscriptions for its mag apps, which would let it knock the $4.99 issue price down considerably, has nothing to do with tech limits. That’s an issue between Apple (AAPL) and the publishing industry, and that may still take some time to sort out.

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