PauseTalk Next Week

Here we are, last day of September, and that means that the next PauseTalk (Vol. 45) is just around the corner. Come join us this coming Monday (October 4) at Cafe Pause, at the usual start time of 20:00 (with the cafe reserved from 19:30). Here’s the Facebook event page, if you like such things.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, last month’s edition had a lower turnout, but we ended up getting some great photos courtesy of Michael Holmes — see the Facebook gallery here. The close-up wide angle shots are pretty fun (below, me looking like a freak).

The New Yorker on iPad

The big news in the digital magazine world this week is of course the release of Conde Nast’s The New Yorker app. It was designed by the same team behind the Wired magazine app — creative director Scott Dadich is in fact now in charge of bringing all of the publisher’s stable of titles to iPad.

The first thing I’ll suggest is that you take a look at Jeremy’s great write-up over at MagCulture — he also posts the terrific video intro produced for the launch, directed by Roman Coppola and starring Jason Schwartzman.

In terms of my experience with the magazine so far (I’m not yet done going through it), it started out badly with a crash as I tried to play a video from the front cover that is supposed to show that cover being drawn. No matter how many times I exited and re-entered the app, it would just show the video screen, and I couldn’t get back to anything else. After deleting the app and re-installing it, and then re-downloading the issue, I was able to start reading the magazine, but that video still refuses to play for me.

As Jeremy mentions in his review, what you get here is very similar to the interface used in the Wired app (menu functions are all the same), and the biggest change lies in the page design, which is much more simple — in keeping with the source material — with text that is less formatted as well (columns of text run down until they’re done, not necessarily at the bottom of the page).

It also uses free scrolling more than in Wired, where you only see it in the table of contents and credits page at the end. As I’ve said before, I’d really prefer if they just kept to the page scrolling, which I rather like — maybe in part because it feels more magazine-y to me.

It was interesting to see a bit of live content appear in the magazine. Pictured above, you see that “This Just In” section is made up of tweets with updated event information. Even Wired hasn’t included any live content yet.

Looking at the ads, The New Yorker app introduces another first for the Conde Nast interface, and that’s the inclusion of ads within an article, as you scroll down — so far the Wired app has kept ads to themselves, in-between articles.

I also had to share the ad pictured above, for a Russian magazine I’ve never heard of, with a title I have no idea how to pronounce, but that I now want to read. What a great tagline!

My biggest gripe right now is the pricing, which is $5. I’m sure they decided to charge more than they do for Wired ($4) because they don’t expect to get the same sales numbers, but I think a lot of people are going to be turned off by the price, especially for a weekly, and especially with so much of the content being city-centric (it did make me want to make a move to New York though, I’ll give them that).

Let me end this with one of the comic strips (above) found inside. The joke for me and my wife is that our dog has escaped from his cage so many times that we’ve given him the nickname Houdini, and so you can imagine how much of a chuckle I got when I saw that strip.

Interview on iPad and Other Edition

I’m a bit confused by what Other Edition is doing with their digital line-up of magazines. According to their website, you can pay 7 euros to have access to all of their titles — and they are doing quite a few, including Interview, IdN, and V — but so far, if you look at Interview, all of the issues have been available as free downloads for iPad on the iTunes App Store. Is this just for a limited time?

It could be that sponsors are funding these free editions.Take the latest issue of Interview for example. Not only is “The Calvin Klein Issue” part of the official name of the app, but the brand also gets a HUGE feature inside — and when I say huge, I mean it takes up half if not more of the issue — and it’s apparently limited to the iPad edition of the magazine. There’s no real reason to complain though, since you do get — what I assume is — the entirety of the regular issue for free, and there’s nothing forcing you to deal with the CK stuff.

Looking at the magazine formatting, it’s hit and miss. It does have the indexing and thumbnail views we expect, but also adds sharing (by email, Facebook, and Twitter), and a way to rate articles, although I’m not quite sure what this affects as it doesn’t seem to be public.

Also, this is not a quasi-PDF Zinio-like transfer, and all text is sized to be readable, and images take up their own page (and are beautifully rendered). If the size is right, one thing I think it gets wrong with text is that it is always presented in a dense two-column layout (see above) — I understand the look they were going for, but I could do with a bit more breathing room.

Interactive bits appear in the form of the occasional pulsating dot that, after touched, reveals some extra text (above) or larger images (below). There are also a few videos, like a behind-the-scenes look a photo shoot with Blake Lively (the cover interview).

I do find it annoying that not only have they implemented a useless “page turning” animation when you read through (an automated version of the page turn effect you can do in iBooks), but that they also limit you to a swipe to change pages. I much prefer just tapping the side of a page to move to the next one, and there’s no reason that couldn’t have been done here since a single tap on any page has no effect (you need to double-tap to accept menu options).

Although it’s certainly a step above the Zinio stuff — pinch-and-zoom reading is not going to be acceptable for long I think — I’d be curious to see some of the “other” Other Edition digital conversations, to see how different or similar they are to what we get with Interview. I’m also not clear on how subscribing directly with them can give me access to iPad versions of these magazines — as far as I know, the iTunes App Store doesn’t support this yet.

The Problem with Vertigo

Can someone please explain to me what the hell DC Comics is thinking when it comes to the promotion of its Vertigo imprint? Vertigo is the home for creator-owned mature series over at DC, and its currently on a roll with a good number of great regular series (DMZ, iZombie, Northlanders, Sweet Tooth), as well as a growing line-up of one-shot graphic novels. These are the kinds of books that people who don’t usually read comics would probably like, and yet Vertigo’s website makes absolutely no sense for non-comics readers. The only pages found on the site are for individual issues, which is fine for a graphic novel, but not for a series. Last week I read through the current run of The Unwritten (#1-17), and wanting to recommend it to people, I had to link to the Wikipedia page because there was no decent page to link to on the Vertigo page, that would explain properly what the series was about.

Something needs to be done in order to give new readers — anyone who’s heard of a series and wants to know more about it — a place to do that. And even though I’m not a particular fan of all the publisher-specific iPad apps out there (all spinoffs of the Comixology app), the one that would make the most sense is a Vertigo-branded one, for people who have absolutely no interest in the super-hero fare that DC Comics mostly publishes. Sure, you can buy the Vertigo books through the DC app, but the mainstream audience that you could get reading these book are not going to find them there.

Pictured, the cover to The Unwritten #17, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, who has done all the covers for the series. That particular issue is rather amazing, presented in the form of an actual choose-your-own-adventure story (but I do recommend reading everything that comes before it first).

Let’s Get Non-Physical

Some more interesting musings by Warren Ellis in regards to digital comics, this time using the success of his free-to-read online web comic FREAKANGELS as an example. Now combine this with iPad delivery, and you have a strong case for comic creators making the move to digital-mostly, with maybe the additions of printed collections for those who still prefer their books that way.

In a later post, we also learn that new issues of the Walking Dead comic series — the one that will debut next month on TV as a Frank Darabont-produced series on AMC — are now available for sale on iPad (through the Image Comics and Comixology apps) the same day they show up in shops. This is something I’ve found to be a big problem with digital comic sales — so far you can’t buy the latest issues of a series, which doesn’t make much sense if you want to reach your core comic reading audience. The one downer is that the digital issue is now priced same as in print, $3, versus the $2 they were charging for previous digital issues.

Writer by Information Architects

Oliver from Information Architects has been teasing his company’s writing app for iPad for a while now, but the wait is over, and you can head straight to the iTunes App Store now and download it. It’s called Writer, and I had the great pleasure of pitching in on the beta testing phase, and can assure you that it’s a terrific writing app. Those of you who already follow Oliver’s writings about typography on the iPad (on the iA blog and on Twitter) know that he’s quite passionate on the subject, and that concern is in full evidence in Writer. And if you’re still not convinced, then Oliver lays it all out on the table for you.

A Beautiful Future for Digital Books

If you haven’t watched it yet, do take the time to take a look at the conceptual video IDEO has put together, presenting three possible experiences that digital books on a tablet could offer. It’s pretty interesting stuff, and although most comments seem to be excited about the first example (“Nelson”) — which is sort of what some of the magazines apps have been offering, but on steroids — but I quite liked what I saw with the third example (“Alice”), which suggests new ways of presenting a narrative, pumping up the interactive angle to a level that almost resembles a game. I know that Tim Kring, the creator of the Heroes TV series, is exploring similar types of narrative — what he calls “transmedia” — with his Conspiracy for Good project.

Dazed & Confused Japan RIP

Yes, another one bites the dust, with Dazed & Confused Japan as the latest Japanese culture magazine casualty. Even though the official site doesn’t have any announcement, Néojaponisme recently tweeted the news, linking to the following post which indicates that #84 is the final issue. The Japanese edition was first launched back in 2002, and so has had an 8-year run.

Clips and Zines

If you’ll allow me to go analog for a moment, I need to say how much I love the way they displayed all of the participating zines at the launch party (or “reading room”) for the terrific-looking Fanzines book. It’s incredibly simple, using clips, and my first thought was that I should have done something similar during last month’s SNOW Magazine Cafe. The one problem this poses is that I did want everything in the show to be readable by everyone, but it’s something I need to keep in mind for a future exhibition, especially if I can get extra copies (one to hang, one on table/shelf for people to grab and read).