Books Technology

Kindle iPad App Adds Double Columns

The Kindle app for iPad has just received an update, and it adds a feature I’ve long wanted: When you read in landscape mode, it now shows up as two columns. So far, it’s one of the main reasons I preferred reading books in iBooks, because having two columns like that (or two paperback-like pages) is the width I like to deal with. Reading in portrait mode (for both), I find that the column width is just too wide to make for a comfortable read.

Magazines Technology

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.


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.

Books Technology

I Live in the Future, and It’s on the iPad

I rather like Nick Bilton‘s tech coverage for The New York Times — he runs the Bits blog — and this week he has a new book out called I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works. I quite want to read the book, but the reason I bring it up here is that Bilton has also released a free iPhone/iPad app to help with the promotion.

While it’s not particularly pretty, it’s a neat way of letting people explore the book before buying, as well as getting them engaged. The app includes long-ish excerpts of every chapter, including links of interest at the end, ways of sharing that content online (through email, Facebook, and Twitter), and at least one video that I found (an intro by Bilton).

There are also sections that let you access Bilton’s own blog, as well as his Twitter feed — nothing I’d like to use on a permanent basis, but nice in that it gives you one place to not only explore the book, but learn more about the author and what he’s all about.

It’s a nice start, and something I’m betting we’re going to see more of, with maybe even more engaging content (interactive elements, community features).

Design Technology

Gray Suits Me

I find it interesting that three of the apps I use the most on my iPad — Twitter, Reeder, and The New York Times’ Editors’ Choice app — all have grayscale, no-color icons (and let me add that if the iPad dock had space for one more, Instapaper would be there too). I wonder if there’s something to this.

Technology Reading Comics

So far your main option for buying and reading comics on the iPad as been the Comixology app, and its suite of publisher-specific spinoffs (Marvel, DC, BOOM! Studios, Image Comics, etc.) As Warren Ellis pointed out yesterday, there’s a new challenger out — something we definitely need, competition is good — in the form of

Just like Comixology, there’s a desktop component to it — currently a Windows-only app, but with a web-powered version to come — but what’s more interesting to me is the iPad version (there’s an iPhone version too, with Windows 7 and Android versions coming). Also like Comixology, that app acts as both a store — where you can buy comics at similar prices ($2 an issue), with a few free samples available — and a reader. does things a bit differently than Comixology, with one of these resulting in a major improvement. Although Comixology lets you read a comics page-by-page, the mode that seems to wow most people — and it is enjoyable to use — is the panel-to-panel reading style, where touching the “forward” part of the screen zooms into to the next panel, filling up the screen with the image, and therefore increasing the readability of the text (it can occasionally be too small when you try reading page-by-page).

What does different is that although it still moves from panel to panel, instead of only showing the current panel, it fades out the rest of the page as it zooms in, but you can still clearly see where you are in the page, and how the current panel relates to the others around it. But the most impressive feat is that, from what I’ve seen, even when you are zoomed in, the image and text remain crisp. The biggest turnoff for me using Comixology is that a lot of panels end up looking very low-res when zoomed in, and to me it ruins the reading experience.

But isn’t perfect. As Warren mentioned, there are currently issues with the payment system (at least for the desktop version, I didn’t try purchasing anything on the iPad). Prices are also the same as what we’re seeing on Comixology, and I think this needs to change — I’m fairly certain that you’ll sell a ton more comics if you sell issues at $1 or less. I also think a subscription system could work — imagine paying something like $5-10 a month to (or Comixology), which would give you access to everything in their collection.

The other thing I’d like to see is less reliance on just dealing with the big (and not so big) publishers, by allowing indie creators to sell their books directly. That would be a real game changer, and would open the space for non-mainstream titles from up-and-coming creators, just like the iTunes App Store opened up the retail space for one-man or small teams of developers.

Magazines Technology

Longshot, the 48 Hours Magazine

You may remember the experiment earlier this year that saw contributors from all over the world get together over a 2-day period to produce a magazine, appropriately called 48HRS. The issue was then released through the MagCloud print-on-demand service, but at the time it was still limited to orders from the US and UK. A week or two ago a follow-up was produced using the same method — gathering content and creating the entire thing in a 48-hour period — as the first issue of Longshot (the name had to change due to pressure from CBS, because of the similarity with the name of its news program).

It’s still available for order as a print product on MagCloud, but because of recent changes with the service, you can now order from anywhere in the world, and even better, a digital version is available as a free download through MagCloud’s iPad app.

And speaking of MagCloud on iPad, although I’ve been very happy to see it come out, I’ve had trouble finding digital releases that I want to read. Maybe I’m just not looking properly, so if you know of some great magazines to check out on the app, do let me know.