bit-tech.net

Thoughts On Digital Magazines

Posted on 28th Sep 2010 at 18:57 by Alex Watson with 25 comments

Alex Watson
I warn you now: this post isn't going to be entirely about the iPad, but it will be featured, so look away now if you're squeamish. Or skip straight to the comments to bash Steve Jobs!

That said, I don't come specifically to praise the iPad either, or even to focus on it. What I want to talk about is the stuff that's on the iPad: particularly the bundle of words, pictures, videos and ideas we call a magazine. There's a lot of great magazine stuff happening on the iPad, from straightforward digital facsimiles (essentially PDFs) of paper mags such as our own Custom PC Zinio edition, through to Apps with video and software features such as 360 degree rotatable images (the ones that, if you're particularly viciously disposed towards the English language, you might call 'magapps').

They're solely iPad Apps at the moment because it's taking the rest of the industry a long time to catch up, but as soon as Android tablets, WebOS tablets and the BlackBerry tablet appear and start selling in numbers you'll see similar offerings on them as well.

The size of a tablet's screen, the way you hold it, the emphasis on it not being a work computer all make them ideal devices for displaying a magazine's worth of content - and so far, tablet owners seem very keen on using them to read, too.

The mag App everyone knows is Wired; some people really like it, some people really don't.

For a first step, I think the Wired App is great. Images and video look excellent and the iPad's screen is fine for reading. The fact the iPad is silent, produces little to no heat when running and can be held in any orientation means it just gets out of the way and you can just get on with reading. Interacting with touch means that unlike viewing on a PC or a laptop with a WIMP interface, content has a feel again, as it does when it's printed. It's near enough to feel real and physical.

What's even more exciting is that this is still clearly first generation stuff - which makes it all the more better that Dennis Publishing, owner of bit-tech and Custom PC is throwing its hat in the ring. On Friday, our first iPad App, iGizmo, hit the App Store.

It's a glossy, monthly gadget magazine taking a look at cool tech and toys - the first issue on the iPad features an electric scooter and a £60 Nerf machine gun.

Produced using the same Adobe Tools as Wired (and the New Yorker, for that matter), iGizmo differs from those two titles in that it's not derived from a print title. It's entirely, natively digital. It's existed for a while as an online digital mag, but it really comes alive on the iPad, with HD video, 360 degree product shots and great photography. It's free, too, so give it a download. It's iPad only at the moment, but Adobe are working on a future version of the tools which will enable output to Android tablets and more.

If you don't have an iPad, or you're waiting for it to download (all the video is bundled with it, so it's 260mb), here's a video of the App in action:


By now you might be thinking that is just a long blog post that exists solely to plug a Dennis product. For shame! I would never stoop to that... Nope, the second point is that as you might be able to tell, these Apps are something I'm quite interested in - so for the next few months I'll be working on Apps here at Dennis while keeping a watching brief over CPC and bit-tech.

If you're particularly eagle-eyed, you might have spotted that we recently updated the bit-tech staff info page not just to add Paul in, but to change James' title to Acting Editor, as he'll be in charge of the day-to-day. Don't worry though - there won't be much different about the site, as the team and its goals remains the same, and while I'm away we'll have some new and existing writers contributing a bit more to the site.

I'm also interested to hear your thoughts about not just iGizmo, but iPads and tablets and magazine type content on them in general; what makes this place so interesting is that its audience comprises die-hard web users as well as people who read both the site and Custom PC magazine.

25 Comments

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Inquitus 28th September 2010, 20:12 Quote
I live in Ireland, and have always had to pay the equivalent of about 7-8 quid sterling depending on the rates, with no option to subscribe directly. 1st thing I did when I got my Custom PC email telling me you'd gone to Zinio was subscribe on my iPad.

Now I need to get to the bit where I apologies about having an iPad! The tablet PC market certainly exists and mine gets great use by all the family. Mines jailbroken ofc and I have added backgrounder multitasking etc. to try and get round Steve Jobs and Apples control freak mentality.

I have an Android phone, and fully expect to trade my iPad in for an Android tablet down the line. The Android market stacks up well against appstore on the phone front, and coupled with the freedom Android allows I'd take Android over Apple for phones any day of the week. However, the Android market is a million miles away on the tablet front, and until tablets appear in significant enough numbers to drive a decent Android App selection for tablets, iPad remains the only choice for the foreseeable, which in my opinion is early 2012 at the soonest.
licenced 28th September 2010, 21:16 Quote
Quote:
By now you might be thinking that is just a long blog post that exists solely to plug a Dennis product
Er, yes. Exactly what I was thinking ... and still am
supermonkey 28th September 2010, 21:40 Quote
This reminds me of a somewhat related article I read over on Wired a while back: The Web is Dead: Long Live the Internet.

One of the points the article made was that we are increasingly seeking information and entertainment in the form of applications that use the internet, rather than seeking individual web pages.

I never stopped to think about it much until after I read the article. I realized that when I'm using my iPhone I don't actually visit the New York Times, NPR, or BBC web pages to get news and information. Instead, I use the New York Times, NPR, and BBC News apps.
danielg 28th September 2010, 21:47 Quote
Another boring blog entry by Alex lol!. (Sorry!. had to say it)

Steve Jobs' Sucks, Apple Sucks, the whole world sucks!.
runadumb 28th September 2010, 23:23 Quote
That app is very flash and looks a treat. This is the way I like to think these things are going and I hope it only gets better.

Problem, Tablets are far to expensive to be used in such frivolous ways and the price has to take a serious nosedive before I would even consider one. Don't get me wrong, I think some of what they do is cool and it is probably the only way I would use content like this but I would far far far rather spend the money on a laptop. When they hit sub £300 and have enough worthwhile content on them (say 3 years) then I would (maybe) be happy spending (wasting?) my money on such a device. Until then I will just use my PC and smartphone thank you very much.

PS **** steve Jobs! Oh and the first gen Ipad is a joke!
Bob1234 29th September 2010, 10:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inquitus
1st thing I did when I got my Custom PC email telling me you'd gone to Zinio was subscribe on my iPad.

First thing I did was shudder.

Last time I used Zinio on the PC it was terrible.

Admittedly it was a few years ago now, but it was truly awful and slow.

But just think, by having digital versions, youre helping save the planet by not killing trees...although probably not doing enough to offset the pollution caused by making and shipping the iPad.
Jamie 29th September 2010, 10:54 Quote
The iPad will have to be £99 before I'm interested.
mi1ez 29th September 2010, 11:14 Quote
I subscribed to the overclocker http://www.theoverclocker.com/ but never read it. it's interface has always seemed reasonable on the PC.
Gunsmith 29th September 2010, 11:26 Quote
cant read a digital mag whilst on the can.
Blademrk 29th September 2010, 11:35 Quote
unless you're reading on an iPad or other tablet/netbook :)
Sifter3000 29th September 2010, 11:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inquitus
The Android market is a million miles away on the tablet front, and until tablets appear in significant enough numbers to drive a decent Android App selection for tablets, iPad remains the only choice for the foreseeable, which in my opinion is early 2012 at the soonest.

Yup, I agree with you in terms of where Android is at for tablets - even Google seems in two minds, sometimes saying Froyo is fine for tablets, other times saying it's really not and implying we should wait for Android 3.

That said, while Google are dithering with Android, the BlackBerry tablet, the Playbook, looks quite good, and HP can make good hardware to run WebOS - so I'd say that by mid 2011 there will be other options aside from the iPad. Of course, by then, we're on to iPad 2...
Bindibadgi 29th September 2010, 12:05 Quote
NEED THE WEEK DIGITAL MAG!

There's no point in ordering it internationally because it'll take 2 weeks to get here, which, for "last weeks news" means I'm reading stuff 3 weeks ago :/ Digital mag = instant win.

I really really miss reading The Week :(:( Please Please Please Please Please Please Please Please Please Please Please give someone a kick to do this, Alex.

Honestly, I would buy an iPad just for it.
nuttsan 29th September 2010, 12:13 Quote
Next year will be the year of the tablet, with by Christmas this year a very strong showing from Android, kicking off with the Samsung Galaxy Tab (should be very good if it's anything like my Galaxy S phone).

However I won't be shelling out for another mobile subscription, so something more like the Archos 70 is my kind of thing: http://bit.ly/ckrObV all one needs is to grab the Market apk from somewhere, then with full flash etc., you've got one great bit of kit.

The only question is whether it's worth waiting to see what Google will do with Honeycomb and Gingerbread (next 2 OS upgrades after Froyo, got to love Google's code names).

p.s. Have to make this comment somewhere, RIM, WTF? PlayBook?!?
Morrius 29th September 2010, 13:05 Quote
I bought an ipad primarily to use as a photographic portfolio with clients etc, and it has surprised me with the usefulness of many other apps. It's become another of the tools I'd miss if I didn't have it, which is about as high praise as you can get out of me. Anyway, I switched to using Zinio to read magazines a while ago, because I like to keep my magazines but don't like the stacks of paper accumulating around my house (same with books, cds, dvds etc, I'm a digital convert for sure). Zinio isn't perfect, but reading a magazine on it is surprisingly good, and I'm lucky that all the magazines I subscribe to in paper form are now on there (new scientist and custom PC got added this week!) First a trickle and then a flood - like it or not, digital magazines are most likely the way forward (as are e-books) and will be embraced in the way the MP3 has been.
Xir 29th September 2010, 13:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Morrius
I bought an ipad primarily to use as a photographic portfolio with clients ...

I planned to do the same, but reverted to a netbook half the price
The Ipad would be great for that, but MAN it's expensive. :D
Quote:
you might have spotted that we recently updated the bit-tech staff info page
Ooooh, and they made you all stand the same as well :D
lacuna 29th September 2010, 13:24 Quote
I might consider reading e-magazines if they were free but Im not going to pay for information that I can search out on the internet. I no longer buy hard copies of magazines either for this same reason.
Morrius 29th September 2010, 16:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xir

I planned to do the same, but reverted to a netbook half the price
The Ipad would be great for that, but MAN it's expensive. :D

That's a relative term, I carry mine in a dodocase and let clients play with it themselves, I wouldn't want to hand over a chuggy netbook for them to play with. It makes an impression, it's probably paid for itself by now :)
eddtox 29th September 2010, 17:27 Quote
I'm waiting for the ASUS EEE PAd 121. If I'm going to spend £6-700, I'd like to get more than a toy for it. The iPad isn't for me.
AngusW 29th September 2010, 22:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gunsmith
cant read a digital mag whilst on the can.
This!
Morrius 30th September 2010, 10:06 Quote
Uh, I read my iPad on the john constantly.
Xir 30th September 2010, 10:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Morrius
That's a relative term, I carry mine in a dodocase and let clients play with it themselves, I wouldn't want to hand over a chuggy netbook for them to play with. It makes an impression, it's probably paid for itself by now :)

Welll, it was a gift for someone "wanting to try and show pictures to clients"... and it was too expensive for that. ;)

I admit the iPad is probably better suited for this application though.
(depending on the business you're in, it may be too flashy though, handing people pictures of your work on a 600-700$ gadget may or may not work depending on the clients)
eddtox 30th September 2010, 11:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gunsmith
cant read a digital mag whilst on the can.

Can too!

http://media.bestofmicro.com/J/0/211932/original/storm-trooper-on-toilet-with-laptop.jpg
AstralWanderer 30th September 2010, 17:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by lacuna
I might consider reading e-magazines if they were free but Im not going to pay for information that I can search out on the internet. I no longer buy hard copies of magazines either for this same reason.
I'm of a similar stripe, only occasionally picking up hard copies.

However I wouldn't even accept a "free" e-mag if it included DRM which Zinio does. I have paper magazines from 10-20 years back that I like to look at occasionally and the chances of being able to do the same with any DRMed e-content 10-20 years from now looks to be next to zero. If you change your e-reader hardware regularly (say every 2 years) and the DRM only allows 3 downloads/installs (Zinio rather cleverly skirt around this by only talking about "viewings") then that imposes a 6 year artificial lifespan - less if you use multiple devices or the distributor closes down.

Another downside is limited hardware support (Zinio offline supports Windows and MacOS with an initial release for iPad/Phone) - using a "standard" format like PDF would allow almost any hardware device (even a crusty Psion 5 or netBook) to view their content.
eddtox 30th September 2010, 22:30 Quote
I wonder if you would be able to strip the DRM of the stuff you paid for once you download it? That's what I will do with my Kindle books if there's ever even a hint that it will stop me from using the content.
countstex 4th November 2010, 15:12 Quote
Both my wife and I (We're both gadget and gamer geeks) scoffed at the iPad when it came out along with the half the internet that doesn't like their tech fruit flavoured. However since our laptop died we've missed the sofa based browsing that a laptop provided. Sure we both have our smart phones, (iPhone 3GS for her, HTC Desire for me) which gets us through the day, but when sitting back on the sofa of an evening a more generous screen size would be most welcome.
And so we had to u-turn on our initial thoughts and are now planning on picking up an Android tablet as soon as one that meets our needs comes along. The Samsung Tab is too small for our needs, more oversized phone than a tablet IMO. However the Archos 101 has our attentions at present with it's rather favourable £250 price point so we could see that in our household come the new year.
At such a point I can imagine these e-Mags would be a welcome addition to our lives, although as i'm also hoping to receive a Kindle it will be interesting to compare the long term viewing of LCD vs e-Ink. Of course what you are talking about are applications that provide more than just words and so would be beyond the capabilities of e-Ink, even the coloured kind however at this point i still have my doubt of looking at a tablet screen for the length of time a magazine takes to read, let along books.
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