Digital as Expensive as Print to Produce?

To produce? Maybe for the content itself (although for the most part, content is shared between the two), but one of the biggest selling points for going digital is to save on printing costs and distribution. I do still have problems with some of the points this piece from Forbes brings up though on the content production side of things. I get that producing videos for a digital edition adds costs, but the idea that including more photos in the digital edition also raises costs is ridiculous — we’re just getting to see more from a shoot, the parts that usually end up on the cutting room floor.

The question of bandwidth could be an issue, but really, is there actually an alternative to releasing magazines for the iPad than through the iTunes App Store? The article gives Zinio as an example, suggesting that all magazines sold through that device are doing it through its own servers. Is Apple really not getting any cut from sales that are done through the iPad app though? If so, then I guess we can expect to see the release of a Conde Nast (or Time, Inc., etc.) app, that will house all of its magazines.

Update: A reader suggests that the point about the photos is not so ridiculous, considering that most photographers are paid for each photo published. I assumed they were paid for the shoots.

National Geographic to Team Up with Adobe for Updated iPad Edition

I was reading this piece at WWD on Adobe’s digital magazine initiative and the release of the new iPad edition of Martha Stewart Living (which uses the Adobe platform), and found this bit near the end rather interesting:

Adobe is now moving on to National Geographic.

When I reviewed the current National Geographic iPad app a while back — which is nothing more than a wrapper for its Zinio edition — I mentioned how disappointed I was that a magazine of that stature wouldn’t try to release something a bit more ambitious. Sounds like we’re going to get something along the lines of Wired after all.

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.

Vogue Hommes Japan

So far things have been relatively quiet on the magazine front when it comes to major releases on the iPad, and we’ve been mostly limited to Dentsu’s MAGASTORE, which is basically a Japanese version of Zinio, with the same functionality (but none of the “enchanced” media functionality that is popping up more and more in Zinio releases). Although Vogue Hommes Japan may not be the first stand-alone Japanese app magazine to hit the iTunes Store, it’s one of the most notable. So what do we end up getting?

Again, this is another examples of something that comes closer to a PDF-like Zinio reader than anything on the Wired/Popular Science end of the spectrum. Some notable differences are that touchable areas are immediately “highlighted” by a glowing colored box (see above), which blinks for a few seconds after loading the page. These links either lead to another page in the magazine, or open a slide show showing photo or video ads.

Other than that, it’s pretty much a page-per-page copy of the original print edition, that you zoom in to read. The app works on iPad and iPhone, with a similar interface on both. It should be noted that turning to a new page often takes a second or two for loading.

The one thing that I did quite like is that on the store page for each issue (Vol. 4 and 5 are currently available) there are two buttons: One to buy (issues are $4) and one labeled tachiyomi. That preview button brings you to a good size preview, about 15-20 pages or so, and it’s something I’d really like to see more magazine apps use. Sure, more and more of these apps are including a free issue to sample, and other apps have preview buttons that give you a detailed table of contents (like Time), but the preview functionality in the Vogue app goes as far as letting you see the first page of any article that you link to (from the real table of contents for instance).

Conde Nast Publications Japan has also launched Vogue Nippon, using the exact same app structure.

EGM Media Comes to iPad

Many longtime gamers — myself included — have been very excited to see the return of Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) this year, both as a print publication and in the form of a new digital spinoff called EGMi, which comes out weekly and features original content. Without getting into the long publishing history of the magazine, it’s been interesting to see EGM‘s original founder, Steve Harris (not the Iron Maiden bassist), orchestrate the re-launch, as well as his embrace of the digital medium.

One of the major developments on the digital side of things is that Harris is also behind ScreenPaper, a technology for bringing the magazine experience to the digital realm. So far, EGMi has been the only publication to use ScreenPaper technology, and it’s been limited to PCs (you read the magazine through your browser). Plans have long been in place to bring ScreenPaper to tablets and the like, and we finally have the first taste of an EGM Media product on iPad, but it’s not what you would expect.

I was very much surprised to see the first ScreenPaper-powered release to not be a new issue of EGMi — which I’m sure is just around the corner — but rather Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days – The Official Digital Magazine, an advertorial for the recently released game.

Putting the content aside — which is what you would expect from an advertorial for a game — it’s an interesting tease for the technology. Although more “enhanced Zinio” (see my recent post on National Geographic‘s Zinio edition) than anything else, it is very readable, and includes slideshows and videos embedded throughout (like what we’ve been seeing on EGMi), but without all of the sharing options that were recently added (like sharing links to an article through Twitter).

It’s also interesting to note that layouts tend to look better when reading in landscape mode over portrait mode, something I’ve noticed in a lot of magazines (especially Wired). Although I’m more comfortable reading things on my iPad in portrait mode (my preferred reading position is spread out on the sofa, with the iPad laying on my stomach), designers seem to find more success in laying out content in landscape — it’s a thankless job, considering every page of content needs to work in both modes. But at least they’ve made sure all pages work on their own, unlike what you get on Zinio.

The Kane & Lynch magazine is a free download, so you can check it out for yourself. What I really want now is for EGM Media to quickly start releasing EGMi on iPad, which is something I’ve been impatiently waiting for. So far I really like the content and the way it’s presented, but I don’t like to read magazines on my laptop, while sitting at a desk. It’s also unclear whether the print edition of EGM will also get an iPad version (something I’d like to see, since the content is different).

Stranded

On April 14th 2010, the ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano closed European airspace. Thousands of people were stranded all over the world.

Andrew Losowsky was one of them, stuck in Dublin, trying to get to the States. A few days in, he had an idea. He put out a call for others stranded around the world and invited them to make a magazine.

That’s pretty much what you need to know about Stranded, and the issue has just been released through MagCloud — Andrew promises that a digital Zinio edition will come out in about a week. The magazine was designed by Matt McArthur (he was stuck in New York), and is packed with stranded-relatd stories from all over. Note also that all proceeds go to the International Rescue Committee.

National Geographic, You Can Do Better

The other day I notice that National Geographic is now available as an app for the iPad, so as I do for pretty much every new major magazine title that comes out for the device, I download it. As is common practice, the app itself is free with in-app purchases of issues, and it comes with a free sample issue. Oh, but what’s this, it’s not a real iPad edition of the magazine, it’s just the Zinio version disguised as one.

For those how don’t know Zinio, it’s actually a decent service that provides digital versions of a wide selection of magazine titles (most big titles you would expect to see on newsstands) in what amounts to a PDF. It started out as a PC thing — displaying the magazines inside your browser — and is now available for the iPad as well (and iPhone too).

A recent development is that some Zinio editions have now been adding some extra “digital” features. Not all titles do this, but National Geographic is one of them, and it usually means extra slideshows, videos, and more links within the magazines, as well as an option to read text on its own page (instead of pinching and zooming the “PDF” page). The iPad version goes one better by making sure that all text that appears on a page is readable, with a link to read the rest of the text that couldn’t fit on the page.

But come on, surely National Geographic can do better. Never mind that it’s already silly to have a separate app for a Zinio title (you usually just buy and read titles within the Zinio app), but what we’re getting is just not of the quality that you’d expect from that magazine. One of the main reasons you read National Geographic is of course for the visuals (the amazing photography and detailed illustrations and maps), and what you get with the Zinio edition is ridiculously low-res — it’s barely acceptable when you read it in landscape mode, and in portrait mode it’s just plain bad. And as the example above show, reading in portrait mode means that you get odd cuts between pages.

The one thing is has going for it is that it’s cheap — although single issues are around $5, a “subscription” of 12 issues is only $15 or so. But of all the magazines that deserve and could benefit from a Wired/Popular Science-like iPad edition, National Geographic is surely one of them.