New iPad’s Perk for Publishers

Apple takes a page from the Nook and Amazon Kindle

The new high-res iPad would, like so many things from Apple, seem a mixed bag for publishers.

Its richer visuals raise concerns that consumers already frustrated by long download times for digital editions of magazines will have to suffer still more waiting. But some good news: Apple is quietly letting publishers offer trials on auto-renewing subscriptions.

The move suggests that despite its reputation for inflexibility, Apple is paying close attention to the Barnes & Noble Nook and Amazon Kindle, which already have the feature. That has worked well for publishers, as customers who sign up for the free trial are automatically charged at the end of that trial unless they turn off the auto-renew option.

Gregg Hano, svp at Bonnier Corp., overseeing Popular Science and other titles, said he’s eager to test the free trial option to see if it leads to an increase in subscriptions. “The downside risk is very small, and the upside is high,” he said.

With the volume of digital editions still relatively small, publishers can use all the help they can get to hook new paying readers.