Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Using Amazon's newstand can be confusing

Newstand, featured in Fire tablets, is one aspect in which Amazon lags behind other providers. In comparison, Barnes & Noble excels with their newspapers and magazines e-store, offering consistency and good features. Not only is there a good selection but also many magazines and newspapers offer the feature to strip magazine pages to just their text and images, with further options to change fonts, margins and line spacing, as with an e-book. Also, the same stripped down version of a magazine syncs to your Nook e-reader, making them accessible on an e-ink screen. Amazon lags behind due to confusion with the manner they present their content and how it is then managed. The main problem is that many subscriptions are not handled direct via Amazon; this means to obtain a magazine or newspaper, the user needs to install an external application. Needless to say, external applications and their related publications are not available on a Kindle e-reader.

This results in confusion, as you get different ways of interacting and managing content. Amazon has two ways to manage subscriptions - if the magazine downloads direct via Amazon, then it is available through 'Newsstand Subscription Settings' that you will find under managing your content and devices in your Amazon account. If, on the other hand, the publication downloads through an external app, then it can be found in 'Your Apps and Devices'. Other than confusion with managing subscriptions, many external magazine/newspaper apps are near uniform, in which magazines only appear in image format; in these applications there is no option to turn a magazine page in landscape, pinch to zoom is restricted and turning pages is cumbersome. On the other hand, magazines that download direct through Amazon onto a Fire tablet, without requiring an external app, work better with the availability of landscape mode, flexible pinch to zoom and easier page turning; there is also the option for text friendly presentation of content (if you double tap an article you then get a text friendly version, in which you can change text size, font, margins, line spacing and background colour). Most publications offered direct from Amazon also sync to a Kindle e-reader, due to this availability of stripped down text versions of articles. Further, there is also the problem of some magazines, possibly by accident, being offered direct via Amazon and also as an external application.

To solve these problems, Amazons needs to introduce uniformity across newstand. A possible option would be to remove all publications offered via third party applications and then offer these same publications as a direct download, similar to an e-book. In the meantime these publications should be exclusively offered in the app store, in a specifically designated category, where they belong.

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