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19Nov 2012

"Matter" Fail: A new pay-as-you-go site for long-form science journalism frustrates this reader.

In March, Charlie Petit wrote in these pages about the debut of a new outlet for freelance writers, especially those who like to go on, and on, and on. Just kidding; I like long-form stories as much as the next guy, if they're good--and a lot of them are.

And now we have a chance to find out. The site, called Matter, has just posted its first story, a 7,800-word offering by the science writer Anil Ananthaswamy. You can pick it up for 99 cents, or you can subscribe for a year for 99 cents a month and get everything Matter publishes. (Which isn't all that much--one story a month is the plan.) I thought I'd start slowly and just pony up the buck for this one.

So I did. The story popped up in my browser. The site also asked me for my Kindle email address. My what? I paled at the thought, but I found it on Amazon fairly easily. I added it to the Matter site. Then I added Matter's address to my Kindle account. This, Matter said, would give me an instant download to my Kindle. However, once I added these addresses, I couldn't get back to the page to begin the download. Nor did the story show up on my Kindle.

I looked in vain for a help file, or a FAQ, and I couldn't find either. I couldn't find a "contact" button on the site. I'm perfectly willing to admit that the problem is me--that any child of five could figure this out. (As Groucho Marx once said, "Send someone to fetch a child of five!")

On the bright side, what I did find was a lot of annoying promotional copy about how great Matter is, about the story "extras" which I also cannot get, and about how I can be part of an "exciting community of readers."

I could read the story on my laptop, where it popped up. But I refuse. And having wasted an hour this morning on this, I'm not sure I'll go back.

-Paul Raeburn

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