Thursday, August 11, 2011

American Chemical Society releases universal app for its weekly publication 'Chemical & Engineering News'

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has released an interesting hybrid app that supports both the print edition and website of its B2B publication Chemical & Engineering News.

C&EN Mobile is made for both the iPhone and iPad and serves both well in that the app contains both up-to-the-minute news from the publication's website, as well as a store where the readers can download and read issues of the B2B weekly publication.
The app varies a bit from what can be seen in the App Store description. According to screenshots and the description included in the App Store, the reader should be able to buy individual issues for $2.99 and better yet, all August issues are supposed to be free.

Unfortunately, the two issues currently in the in-app C&EN Store are the July 11 and July 18 issues, while the July 25th issue is available to view. The August issues currently are missing.

But fear not. After speaking with Rachel Pepling, the online editor who, along with Pam Rigden-Snead, web products manager, and Yinghao Ma, Senior Scientist, was part of the team that helped get this app into the App Store, I learned that the appearance of the app today caught them a bit by surprise and those issues should be available soon.

The app, while universal, was really built with the iPhone in mind first, with the team making sure everything worked well in that environment. "Down the road we hope to do an more interactive version for the iPad," Pepling said.

The app has a lot going for it now, however.

For one thing, one of the sections that a reader can access is "Jobs". The app lists the jobs available from an RSS feed. Clicking on the link takes you to the American Chemical Society website where you have to sign-in to access further information, probably what can be expected when you are dealing with a trade association, but at least those jobs are included in the app, something most newspaper apps leave out of their tablet editions.

Left: the C&EN Store where users can buy issues; Right: the app's job board.

As for the weekly issues of Chemical & Engineering News, the issues are handled simply as they would be on the web. No effort was made to include PDF versions of the issues in the app simply because, as Pepling told me, this wouldn't work as well on the iPhone.

Pepling also said that hopefully by the end of the year the app will be updated to allow ACS members to access the issues free of charge since they are technically already paying for the content. This is one of the reasons the publication chose to offer the August issues free for now.

The team that worked with KiwiTech in getting this app developed made some good choices along the way. For off, the app appears under the ACS name, meaning that they went through the process of joining the developer program. This allows them to not only list the app under their own name, but also sell issues through the App Store. As Pepling told me, going through a build-it-yourself vendor would have required that the app appear under their name (though there are vendors that allow you to use your Apple Developer account to avoid this).

For now, once the team gets those current issues into the system, this will prove to be an excellent start for the ACS and its magazine team.