Thursday, May 13, 2010

Citizen publishing comes to tablets; 'Letter to Jane' photographer/publisher brings indie zine to the iPad

The web has certainly offered independent publishers, journalists and just-plain-citizens the opportunity to self-publish electronically -- with Blogspot and WordPress, as well as hosting services, contributing to an explosion in self-expression and independent publishing.

The promise of the iPad, and by extension, future tablets and e-readers is that an individual may now be able to produce and distribute their work on a more-or-less equal footing with commercial media enterprises. Or, at least, that is the hope.
While the iTunes app store is filled with iPhone apps for small, independent publications and blogs, the iPad app store is currently lacking in apps from small publications specifically designed for Apple's new tablet. (iPhone apps can be used on the iPad, but with generally poor results as the pixels need to be doubled, leading to blurry text and images.)

So where are the independent publications?
Well, here they come.

Timothy Paul Moore is a 25 year-old photographer from Portland, Oregon whose iPad app for his personally crafted magazine made its debut in the iTunes store on Tuesday. Letter to Jane is Moore's creation -- a conversion of his online and print magazine made up of interviews and photography.

(For the uninitiated, the title of the magazine refers to a film by the French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard.)

Letter to Jane, one of the first indie zines formatted for the iPad, the work of Portland photographer Timothy Paul Moore.

“I got my BFA in photography from Oregon State about two years ago and was completely clueless because no one had ever told me how to get into a magazine, only how to make a print and get into galleries,” Moore told Jill Singer of the Sight Unseen earlier this year. “About six months ago I decided I wanted to do my own thing, and I started asking people for help.”

Moore was nice enough to return my call and explain to me how his magazine made it onto the iPad. "It's been a blog for a year and half, and then it moved to kind of an indie zine this past Christmas," Moore said.

Then, when Apple announced that it would be introducing the iPad, Moore immediately saw the potential.

"I wanted to (bring the magazine to the iPad) ever since I heard about the thing, but wanted to see what the big magazines might do. Then I got a feel for it -- then got one in my hands and realized I'd really like my work to be on there," Moore said.
"I looked at what other people were doing and did the best to my abilities at the moment."

Moore's iPad app is definitely minimal. But in some ways the lack of bells and whistles allows readers to concentrate on the material inside. The users inability to zoom and move around within the photographs is sorely missed, but this was not so much an editorial decision but simply the result of Moore being a photographer, not a professional programmer.

"I haven't really programmed anything since high school, so I kind of just sat down and got to work -- learned, went through some tutorials, went back and forth, and had some people help me", Moore said yesterday.

As for the lack of multi-touch features? "I just couldn't figure out how to implement it without the thing crashing. I really wanted it to be stable."

Now that Issue 01 of Letter to Jane is in iTunes Moore is ready to move on to the next issue, committed to the tablet platform. "There's an issue in the works, its being specifically designed to look a lot better on the iPad," Moore said.

(The first issue of Letter to Jane is 180 pages and can be seen online at Moore's website, or downloaded as a PDF here.)

The next issue will include the work of four other photographers, and Moore will have the help of a colleague who will do much of the work on the first 20 pages.

Letter to Jane costs 99 cents in iTunes. In order to be able to be an independent developer and charge for an app inside iTunes you have to become part of Apple's developer program. The paperwork is pretty easy and there is a $99 fee. As a result of getting his first app approved and in iTunes, Moore is now an iPad publisher, something many mainstream media companies can not claim.

Update: A photograph from the iPad edition of Letter to Jane will be used for our weekly Photoblogging Friday feature tomorrow -- a first here at TNM.