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Readers trying to access the latest issue of The New Yorker on the iPad were running into a bit of a problem until early this afternoon: There was no issue available.
The magazine’s Dec. 6 issue wasn’t available on the iPad for more than 36 hours, which led several people within the ranks at Condé Nast to speculate that Apple was holding the issue hostage. But why?
Well, there’s certainly nothing salacious about Gay Talese’s profile of Marina Poplavskaya, or Connie Bruck’s story on Eli Broad. No censorship issues there.
Instead, several sources at Condé Nast speculated that Apple chief executive officer Steve Jobs might be sending a signal to the weekly magazine and 4 Times Square to show them…it wasn’t clear exactly what.
“It was a routine matter and the app is up now,” is all a New Yorker spokeswoman would say.
But for at least a day-and-a-half before, it was nearly impossible to interpret this as a routine issue.
One fact is known: Publishers have to register with Apple for a certain number of issues ahead of time for them to be available in the iTunes app store. Condé Nast initially submitted somewhere between eight and 10 issues for The New Yorker, a source said. The New Yorker had nine issues prior to the Dec. 6 one that had been published for the iPad.
Sources said that, two weeks ago, the publisher submitted a request to open up availability for future issues of The New Yorker. The two weeks came and went, and Sunday night at midnight — or 9 p.m. on the West Coast — the latest issue wasn’t published. The Dec. 6 issue didn’t make its way onto the iPad until roughly 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, an hour after this reporter called an Apple spokesman, who said he would “poke around” to find out what was happening. (The spokesman never called back.)
Over the last week, sources said Condé Nast staffers had been trying to reach Apple to find out what had happened with the magazine’s application, and with the Dec. 6 issue, but they learned little.
Though the delay was irritating to some at Condé Nast, it won’t cause much of a financial hit. The New Yorker, which sells its issues at $4.99, averages sales only in the low thousands, said a source.
This is one of many examples of Apple pushing around the magazine industry. Apple has allowed only a few magazines to sell subscriptions for the iPad. In July, as AllThingsD reported, the tech giant rejected a plan by Time Inc. to sell subscriptions for its Sports Illustrated app. The New Yorker, like all of Condé Nast’s publications available on the tablet, only sells single iPad issues.
New Yorker editor David Remnick in the past has spelled out his vision for a subscription: Pay a fee and get everything — print, tablet, online, whatever. “Clearly, clearly, the endgame — insofar as there’s ever an endgame, it’s all a process — is for you to pay some fee, so you can have the whole magazine online, the archives online and God knows whatever else,” Remnick said at a breakfast hosted in late May by Condé Nast. Remnick certainly wasn’t shy about going to war with Jobs at that breakfast. When he was asked whether it would be a problem if Jobs wanted to censor something from The New Yorker for the iPad, Remnick did not back down.
“We’re going to publish what we publish,” said Remnick. “If the Pentagon can’t talk us out of a story, then Apple in Cupertino isn’t going to throw me off.”
But at least for the moment, it appears Jobs does have the power to keep the magazine off the iPad.