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'Early preview' of Android magazine service to launch this week

Even as the first magazine publishers have taken to Apple's iTunes subscription terms, an early version of an alternative service put together by the five big publishers is set to launch on the Android Market later this week.

Next Issue Media, which has been labeled "Hulu for magazines," plans to begin offering app versions of seven magazines to Android users on Thursday, MediaMemo reports.

The service, however, is still in the "early preview" stage, as only Samsung Galaxy tablet owners on the Verizon network will be able to buy the apps at launch. The apps will be available from the Vcast application store.

Next Issue had announced plans last year to debut a service by early 2011.

Four of the consortium's five main partners will begin selling titles this week: Esquire and Popular Mechanics from Hearst; Fitness and Parents from Meredith; The New Yorker from Conde Nast; and Fortune and Time from Time Inc. The fifth partner, News Corp., doesn't publish any print magazines.

According to Next Issue CEO Morgan Guenther, magazine publishers will get "at least" as much as the 70 percent available on Apple's platform, while device-makers or carriers will split the remaining share with the consortium.

Unlike on Apple's App Store, publishers will get "full access" to subscriber information from Next Issue's apps. Apple Vice President of Internet Services Eddy Cue confirmed last week that roughly half of iPad users voluntarily share their personal information with publishers.

After Apple announced the terms of its in-app subscription service, many publishers and developers balked. Publishers particularly took issue with Apple's control of subscriber information, the company's 30 percent cut and rules that require in-app pricing to at least match deals offered outside of the app. Apple also banned links to out-of-app purchases, prompting speculation that Amazon's Kindle store would be forced to change.

In recent weeks, however, several major publishers, including Bloomberg, Condé Nast and Hearst. Time has begun offering the iPad edition of its magazines free to print subscribers, but has yet to reach an agreement to sell digital subscriptions on the iPad.