Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Melbourne-based New Litho shows the industry how to make tablet editions for their print customers

What are the odds that the printer of your magazine will be able to provide innovative digital publishing solutions? It's possible, I suppose, but you would not necessarily expect much in this area.
Take the magazines coming out of RR Donnelley, the Chicago based printer of thousands of magazine titles. For the past year they have been releasing iPad app for their customers. But these tablet editions are slow to download, replica editions that scream "we love print, but you really, really want to read this on your iPad, well I guess that will be OK with us."

But if you are lucky enough to do business in Australia, you might want to talk to the folks at New Litho, a printer from Surrey Hills, outside Melbourne,  that specializes in real estate publications.

Last week they released their first iPad app for one of their printing customers, McGrath Real Estate. McGrath, besides selling properties, is also a publisher in that they produce a weekly publication that promotes their listings. The real estate magazine, of which 14,000 copies are produced a week, gets dropped at various locations, as these kinds of real estate magazines tend to be.
In addition to the print version, New Litho has also been producing flipbook versions of the magazine to be linked to from the real estate company's website. These are your typical Flash flipbooks which you see all the time.

But now New Litho has released its first iPad app in support of McGrath Real Estate, and it should be a model for other printers worldwide.

The free app creates a library where users can download their issues -- right now only one issue is available. The download is fairly slow, but not too bad. To assist in quicker reading, the app includes progressive download which allows the reader to dive right in after 3.1 percent of the magazine has been downloaded. This will only allow you to read the first few pages, of course, but it helps speed things up.
But like I said, the download speeds weren't bad which made me think that what I would see when I opened up the issue would be the typical replica edition. Nope. This app, while qualifying for replica edition status with ABC because it contains the same editorial and photography as the print version, has native landscape layouts that make this a much more pleasurable reading experience.

As you can see from the animated GIF of the article, the reader can scroll through this article much as one would in a natively designed app. In addition, the tablet edition contains zoomable floorplans.

(About the only thing I could think of that would make this feature even better would be if the user could stream these floorplans their Apple TVs for viewing on their HDTVs, though with the new HDMI cable on would be able to "mirror" the whole app for viewing on a television if you really wanted to do this.)

Can New Litho continue to produce quality work like this? They're trying: "For the the past year we've been working on iPad apps for our magazines, Seth Watts, managing director at New Litho said to me in an email. "We had some unique requirements, insofar as we only have 4 staff in our pre-press department and they are busy producing the 30 titles above (those real estate magazines)."

New Litho has a small pre-press department, Watts informed me, so their work is cut out for them. But this a great start, and a wonderful alternative to those blurry replica editions being sold by US printers.