As I’ve mentioned before, I love reading books about video games — which is the reason I love the series of StoryBundle collections Simon Carless puts together, the most recent one released last month. If you’re looking for some good suggestions on what to read, there’s tons of great books (over 100) listed here (it even links to a few others lists, like this one from the New Yorker).
The Tokyoiter is a fictional tribute to the great covers of The New Yorker, done as a project to celebrate the love illustrators have for the city of Tokyo. It was started by a couple of friends of mine, Andrew Joyce and David Robert, along with Tatsushi Eto. A new cover is shared on the site every Sunday, and you can watch this PechaKucha presentation to hear Andrew and David talk about the project. The cover in this post is by Tilly (aka Running for Crayons).
Craig Mod recently posted a new essay in relation to digital publishing — the throat swallowing titled “The ereader incompetence checklist (for discerning consumers, editors, publishers and designers” — and as with everything else he’s written of late, it’s a must read for anyone with even a passing interest in the topic.
BUT, I do have to say that I’m starting to disagree with some of his stances, and mostly because I feel that he continues to treat the digital treatment of books and magazines in a similar manner, while these are in fact quite different mediums, and the way we interact with them is quite different as well.
The biggest issue I have with his views on magazines is that he prioritizes readability over any thoughts of design, and that’s just not how I experience most of the magazines I love. For me, the beauty of the magazine medium is in its marriage of text and images, and the ways that art directors manage to combine these in an appealing presentation. Text alone or images alone do not make a magazine (although I’ll readily admit that there are some magazines, like The New Yorker, where it’s really just about the text).
While we were out for drinks the other night — in commemoration of his leaving Tokyo for more “digitally charged” pastures — he mentioned how his favorite magazine experience on the iPad is through Instapaper, and I think that says it all. Don’t get me wrong, Instapaper is not only of my favorite apps (on both iPhone and iPad), it’s also one of the apps I access the most, and it’s because of it that I was able to get back into reading long-form journalism (something I’ve never felt comfortable doing over the web). But a great magazine experience? There’s no magazine experience there at all, it’s just a better way of reading an article, independently of any design touch.
For me, same goes for Flipboard, the “Social Magazine.” While yes, it does offer a more pleasing (compared to the web) and magazine-y way to read collections of articles, the fact that it’s automatized means you quickly tire of the layout. I think “Social Newspaper” would be a better way to describe it, since most of the time (and emphasis on the “most,” since there are definite exceptions out there) layouts in newspapers tend to be conservative and relatively standard. It’s why I love the New York Times iPad app, and wouldn’t really want it to change (although I’m quite tired of the inclusion of image heavy/slideshow photo rounds-ups, with the images missing).
So going back to Craig’s piece, I’m of course all for a greater level of accessibility in digital texts, but when it comes to magazines, not at the price of losing any though of layout that doesn’t simply copy a web-like approach (long flows of text).
Update: The discussion continues — with a response from Craig — in this post.
Wired magazine’s creative director — and overseer of Conde Nast’s digital strategy — Scott Dadich recently gave a talk at the OFFSET 2010 festival in Dublin. His talk of course focused on the successful iPad edition of Wired and the collaboration with Adobe, but I found the following bit (from Creative Review’s event report) to be rather interesting:
He then showed the difference between how the New Yorker iPad app is different to the Wired Reader because the content demands to be updated more – so it makes more sense to have a much more HTML-led content management system, rather than an InDesign reliant one.
So far the biggest criticism towards the Wired app has been the lack of text control, due to the fact that every page is basically an image, and so it’s impossible to resize text, copy it, share it, etc. And what Dadich says is true — for the “Goings on About Town” section of The New Yorker (the front section) all text is in fact selectable. But it needs to be said that all you can do is copy the text — there is no way to resize, or to directly share it, or do any of the things that most ebook readers let you do these days.
And since I’m on the topic of The New Yorker — you can read my initial thoughts on the first issue of the iPad edition here — I’m happy to see that they did not follow Wired‘s example when it comes to the method of releasing new issues. Instead of Wired‘s annoying reliance on a full app update, new issues of The New Yorker simply appear for purchase inside the app, same as all of the Time, Inc. titles. Let’s hope Wired turns to this method as well.
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.