Customer Reviews: The Economist - US Edition
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on July 24, 2012
There is a lot of confusion about the subscription benefits between the Kindle vs Digital vs Print offerings that need some serious clarification. The Economist is a fantastic publication so I'm writing this to make sure people aren't giving the magazine undeserved flak, and that people here understand what's going on behind the scenes...

Here is the issue: The Economist, like most other major publications, provides lots of value-added features to subscribers but make limited access to their website free for SEO and ad revenue generating purposes. These subscriber features include: full audio podcasts, full access to apps and commentary, and of course full digital access to the printed content. The digital subscriptions and authentication to access this content happens directly on the Economist's servers, so features served from the Economist's servers are easily matched and delivered to subscribers. AMAZON'S KINDLE DELIVERY INFRASTRUCTURE has a separate user database, separate servers, and a separate transfer protocol that is 100% independent of the Economist.

This wouldn't be a problem, except that AMAZON DOES NOT ALLOW PUBLICATIONS TO AUTHENTICATE AGAINST AMAZON USERS SUBSCRIBING TO THE PUBLICATIONS' OWN PRODUCT! This is technically easy to do by implementing an API for publishers. But without it The Economist has no way of knowing who is subscribing through Amazon, so they cannot offer the digital features to kindle subscribers.

This is how it SHOULD work (listen up Amazon):
1) You pay for the Kindle subscription
2) You then sign up with a free account at that doesn't have any subscription rights to it (yet)
3) You add your amazon info to your Economist user account
4) The Economist's server pings the Amazon server, and the Amazon server says "Yup, this guy is definitely a paying subscriber, and he is paid up through XX/XX/XXXX"
5)You get the Kindle subscription every week, plus the ability to log in to the with a newly subscriber-enhanced user account.

This doesn't work because Amazon does not allow step 4 in the above example. The Economist would LOVE to give Kindle subscribers digital access, but there's no practical way to do this because Amazon refuses to implement APIs to make Step 4 possible. The lack of digital subscriber features here is 100% AMAZON'S FAULT!

Why the same price? When you sign up as a digital subscriber directly at, they get 100% of the $120, but from a Kindle subscription they only receive $84 out of $120 retail price on Amazon (bummer). If they charged less, they'd get only $70 or $60... and last I checked the newspaper industry isn't profitable enough to take deeper and deeper cuts into it's retail price. However, they are economists over there (just a hunch) and as a result I think they chose the CORRECT pricing strategy of $120 for the Kindle edition. Here's why: The Economist takes a 30% haircut and delivers a sub-par product via Amazon (because it doesn't include extra features), so they're subtly encouraging a reasonable person to just subscribe directly with to receive the superior product. They make a subscription on kindle available simply to appease those few subscribers who must have a whispersynced copy formatted like the print edition on their Kindle and wouldn't subscribe under any other arrangement. In effect, kindlers are paying the "Amazon's Infrastructure Sucks For Publishers" tax by paying the same but getting less.

Unfortunately, most people's negative reviews blame the publisher for not getting the extra digital features, and interested parties are looking at these comments and writing off The Economist completely, instead of taking exception specifically to the service Amazon pigeon-holes publishers into. Of course The Economist can't really say this on Amazon, but I have no problem laying it down for them. So for my fellow Amazoners, don't just choose between subscribing or passing on the Economist, consider the kindle or (direct) digital option as well, and vote this comment up so others can see it.
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on July 1, 2009
I was very happy and interested in the Economist on Kindle despite the cost until I learned that the subscriber content on the Economist web site is not included. This content which includes archived articles and the audio edition is only available to print or web subscribers. More info is available from the Economist @ 1-800-456-6086. For the cost involved the Kindle subscription should at least equal the print subscription benefits.
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on July 26, 2009
As a longtime subscriber of The Economist, I was quite enthusiastic at the opportunity to subscribe via Kindle: on time delivery, no more bypassing the magazine at airports and shops because I knew mine would be waiting at home, no more wrinkled torn copies from the Post Office, the ease and convenience of Kindle downloads. So, I tried the 14 day trial in spite of the reviews here.

After trying the Kindle version and experiencing its shortcomings, I think it's unconscionable and arrogant to ask the same price for the Kindle subscription, sans some of the satire / cartoons, etc. and particularly without the ability to use The Economist's website as allowed by the paper subscription. (Further, to add insult to injury, when I inquired if I could switch my subscription, as I still have months left on my paper sub, The Economist customer service replied there was no way to accomplish this.)

Kindle is brilliant, but Amazon needs to watch the offerings' quality, feature set and pricing, or they will in the end lose traction to other, alternative readers. The digital age is certainly here, but we will see rapid innovation and change, lots of competition and hopefully price competition as well. To this Kindle reader, it appears Amazon is trying to leverage its brilliant start a bit too heavily with some high prices and incomplete products: perhaps tactically productive, but in my opinion much poorer strategy for developing a longtime committed customer base - something I always thought Amazon was adept at.
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on July 7, 2009
I heard a report on NPR the other day regarding the cost to publish with Amazon... Amazon gets 70% of the revenue... the publisher gets 30%. So don't think the high pricing is all the publishers fault.

I love my Kindle, I love the Economist, and I am a loyal Amazon shopper, but not at this price. I'll stick with the print edition.

Note: I left a similar comment yesterday... Amazon deleted it. Guess they don't want you to know what their cut is!!!
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on July 2, 2009
Magazine - 5 stars
Kindle price - 1 star

Aside from the controversy between the Kindle price and regular paper subscription price, anyone can do a Google search and find the code that will pull the latest issue off of the website, reasonably format it (though not exactly like the Amazon edition) and then all you have to do is "translate" it with Mobipocket and dump it on your Kindle...all for FREE. And yes, I get all of the articles and pictures. And I can get the latest issue AS SOON as it hits the website. I just did the 14 day trial and they sent me...last week's issue (?!?)...when I can clearly see the new issue on the website. So all I'm asking is, meet us somewhere in the middle of Free and the $10 you are charging.

(I do subscribe to the print edition, but as far as I can tell, I am not logged in to the Economist website, so anyone can get this mag on their Kindle for free, with the proper tools)
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on June 22, 2010
Do yourself a favor and download the "Calibre" software for ebook readers. If you subscribe to the print edition, it will automatically login, download all the content, create an ebook and either email it to you or transfer over the sync cable to your Kindle (or Nook or whatever). Total cost is usually < $100 if you shop online for the print and online (web-based) edition. I'd love to buy this even if it cost a bit more, but why reward their awful product?
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on July 6, 2009
You can get a digital version of the Economist from [...] for less than $80/yr and this includes each issue in audio (download 140mb mp3) for free. From the [...]site, "The audio edition contains word-for-word recordings of almost all articles published in the The Economist read by professional newsreaders and actors. Choose between downloading the full edition of the newspaper, a particular section, or listening to streaming audio versions of our renowned leaders."

I am dyslexic, so i need everything offered on the the Kindle, but in this case i am going with the Economist digital version. The Kindle offer simply isn't cost effective.
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on July 9, 2010
I was ok paying more for the Kindle subscription due to having it the day of release. However, I am very disappointed that I can't read my copy of The Economist using the Kindle software application for my iPad and Mac. Big letdown.
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on November 30, 2011
If you currently subscribe to The Economist, which costs approx. $119 per year for print and digital content, the Amazon Kindle is the ONLY device that will not allow you to view the content without purchasing an additional subscription directly through Amazon. To be clear, The Economist subscribers are able to access the magazine, and audio, on any other Android device including smart phones and tablets, and both the iPhone and iPad allow this as well. Upon calling Amazon customer service about this, they explained that if you want the magazine on the Kindle you have to purchase a 2nd subscription - there are no plans to bring the currently available Android The Economist App into the Amazon app store. Additionally, even if you have not subscribed yet, by purchasing through the Amazon store (on this site) you pay the same price but do not receive any of the audio or additional content. At that price tag, I would say that is the most ridiculous scam I have heard of, and would have never thought Amazon would go to those lows. Let's hope they don't take a similar stance on other publications, which would break down the whole point of the tablet / electronic media movement which is mobility, sharing across devices, and a reduction of print materials.
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on July 1, 2009
I've never subscribed to any type of periodicals in print (save for a brief period in school when we were required to read Time/Newsweek). Since obtaining a Kindle (and later on a Kindle DX) I have discovered periodicals and the in-depth reporting service they provide. It is a bit of a shame to see the newspaper, magazine industry struggle as I have seen that they provide a very valuable place in society (at least the high quality publications do). Items like the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and now the Economist provide VERY high quality content and it has been so refreshing to read in depth coverage rather than having to rely on superficial TV coverage along with a focus on non-news items.

On the one hand, I do feel that the price set for the Kindle edition of the Economist is a bit high. On the other hand I have been reading a few Economist print issues before (and have now activated the 14 day trial for my Kindle DX). This is a very high quality publication. What price should a well researched, highly informative, and quality version of a publication receive? If we are only willing to pay rock bottom prices for content, we will invariably get rock bottom quality material.

No doubt this is one of those high quality content publications. The Kindle edition only adds convenience and portability to an excellent publication. If the convenience and portability do not justify the price for you, then I would suggest you stick with the print edition. Please also realized that the Kindle edition contains absolutely no adds to offset/subsidize the cost. Also, if the current implementation/limitations of the Kindle periodicals (i.e. DRM issues, color, etc) are not to your liking, I would also suggest the print version. For me the Kindle version is the best and most convenient way to read The Economist.

After reading my first Kindle edition, I have been very pleased with the content and the fact that The Economist staff has provided a nicely formatted Kindle version. I stopped my LA Times subscription due to the awful formatting issues as well as the lack of pictures/charts. The Economist Kindle edition does not have formatting issues and the charts/images look really good on my Kindle DX. The articles are divided into sections that are very easy to navigate with using the Kindle. I can easily pick the articles I want to read as well as the articles that I want to skip.

I'm very impressed with the quality of the content (which is not a surprise really), and the superb formatting work put in to make sure that The Economist looks good on the Kindle (DX).

If I were looking at both products (The Kindle version and the print version) and both were roughly the same price, I would definitely pick the Kindle version for convenience. Although it still remains to be seen whether I will keep this after the trial period since I do still feel that it is a little bit overpriced.

4.5 Stars from me. Scale back the price a little and it will be a perfect 5.
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