Monday, December 27, 2010

A closer look at the new special edition from Scientific American for the iPad: Origins and Endings

After almost nine months of living with the iPad and reading media apps, one develops certain likes-and-dislikes: for instance, apps with both portrait and landscape modes is a "like"; an obnoxious video that plays every time the app opens, whether you want it to or not is a definite "dislike".
The new special edition app from Scientific American has many of the features that I've grown to like in a magazine app. It also has the added benefit of having superior content, of course.

Origins and Endings: Scientific American is a special edition of the magazine and the publisher's (Nature Publishing Group) debut on the iPad (they have no mobile apps at this time). The app costs $3.99 and was released just before the holiday weekend. Whether this will be a good thing or not time will tell, but this app deserves to be promoted by Apple in the New & Newsworthy section of the iTunes App Store.

The app tells a compelling story: from the origins of the universe, of life on Earth and our early human ancestors through to what happens to our bodies after we die, the odds of an apocalypse, and the end of time. Our interactive feature "How Much Is Left?" demonstrates how long it will take before some of Earth's most crucial resources are depleted, whereas "The Future of Biotech and Agritech" offers smart suggestions for alternatives. Finally, in the app's Innovations section we explain how computing began long before the transistor and how that technology evolved into technologies today, including your iPad. We explain the origins of many everyday items and phenomena found in the kitchen, office and the fields of entertainment, transportation and medicine.
- iTunes App Description
The app utilizes navigation techniques that may become standard in tablet magazines: swiping to go from story to story, and scrolling to read within the story. This way of navigating was described in the Bonnier tablet video released a year ago, before Apple announced its iPad launch. I find it logical, though I know some tech writers are getting used to the idea of swiping for one action, scrolling for another.
The app offers both portrait and landscape modes, as well as plenty of audio and video built-in. Because of this the app weighs in at 384 MB, smaller than some big apps. And because the user does not have to download the edition after installing the app, the download times seem very reasonable.

Maybe I'll return yet again to writing about this app after I have lived with it longer and read all the content. But for now I must say this one was a very good Christmas present.