Monday, September 26, 2011

The 'replica edition versus native app' dilemma not just limited to consumer publications as trade publishers attempt to find an affordable tablet publishing solution

Two U.K. B2B publishers perfectly illustrate the issues trade publishers face when launching their first tablet editions: does one build an in-house app development team, bring in app development partner, or go with a PDF-based solution that will create replica editions?
While most major consumer publishers are slowly moving towards native apps, the majority of magazines that are read on the iPad or Android tablets are likely to be replica editions of the print magazine. Whether these replicas are read inside a newsstand app like Zinio's, or else contained in their own branded app, the end products are pretty much the same: exact copies of the print edition that require the reader to zoom into the text to read the stories. Some of these replicas contain live links or embedded multimedia like audio or video, but are exactly like the print editions.

This is the approach taken so far by Terrington Limited for the three apps it has released into the App Store. Network Communications News, Motorcycle Sport & Leisure Tours Brochure, and Electrical Contracting News are all free apps recently released in the App Store.

Since the publisher is using Yudu to create digital flipbooks for their websites, I have to assume they are using this vendor for their apps, as well.

The apps, though, do show up under the Terrington name, so it's possible they are building these apps themselves. (Yudu has over 100 apps under their name in the App Store for such magazines as Oklahoma Living Magazine and the UK edition of Information Age.)

Because many B2Bs do not charge for their magazines since they use a qualified circulation model rather than a paid subscription model, a less expensive replica edition solution has some merits. The problem, though, is "qualified" as these replica editions do not offer a qualification mechanism, or even a registration process.
LOOP Digital Media, the Cambridge publisher, has gone in a different direction, however. P1 Aviation Magazine is a native app, build to be read in both portrait and landscape, though landscape is reserved pretty much for photo galleries.

Maybe LOOP went in this direction because it is located in Cambridge, or because it considers the subject of its magazine, business aviation, as more demanding of a native app solution – who knows. But the P1 app is by far a better reading experience as far as I am concerned.

It, too, however, is an open book as it has no qualification mechanism built into the app, nor does it charge for access to the issues. It's issue downloads, as you would expect are much larger than those of its replica edition counterparts – over 300 MB versus only 15-20 MB for the PDF-based editions.

With Amazon to unveil its new color Kindle tablet this Wednesday, it would be wise of publishers to begin getting familiar with Amazon's own app store.

While Apple's App Store shows 658 paid apps, and 3,439 free apps under the News category built for the iPad, Amazon's apps store only has 354 apps total, and it doesn't appear that any of these are built specifically for tablets. (I find it rather hard to track the Android Market as they do not break out mobile from tablet apps, though they recently added a "Featured Tablet Apps" section which contains 171 apps.)

But the Kindle Edition store shouldn't be ignored by publishers either.

As of today, there are only 27 'Business & Investing' magazine listed in the Kindle Edition magazine store – 130 total periodicals, versus over 15,000 blogs (that's where you will find the Talking New Media Kindle Edition.)

Creating a Kindle Edition for your magazine appears relatively easy enough, though the fact that the it is still considered a "beta" program is a bit strange.

One thing that might be holding many publishers back is simply that Amazon is certainly giving off mixed signals by launching a color Kindle that supports Android. Should a publisher launch a simple Kindle Edition like The Economist, or an Android app (here is The Economist Android app).

It is easy to see why so many publishers raise up their arms in frustration and then conclude that it is easier to start with the Apple App Store and move on to Android or Kindle later (or else let their digital publishing vendor worry about all this for them).