Monday, October 17, 2011

Some digital publishing vendors try to shoehorn their products into the new mobile and tablet platforms

This is the third of four short posts on tablet editions.

There are as many flavors of replica editions as there are native apps. Some vendors start by creating a PDF-like version of the print publication and then load it up with live links, multimedia, and text versions that pop out to assist with reading. These are often quite usable and can be considered a legitimate option for some publishers who feel they need to have a presence on smartphones and tablets.
Other vendors, however, start not with the print product when creating their new tablet editions, but with the digital flipbook. These tablet editions then try to recreate the online Flash-driven experience.

One vendor who is selling this vision of tablet publishing is Mygazines, a Toronto based digital publishing company. Their tablet editions are strictly reproductions of what has been placed online for the magazine with no other enhancements that make the magazines easier to read on a tablet.

I downloaded the apps for South Bay Digs Magazine, Stage Fashion Magazine, Network News Canada and MacDirectory, as well as their own promotional app called Going Digital.

The app for South Bay Digs simply failed to work as each time I attempted to download an issue to read I got an error message. However, the app creates a library area where you are given the option to read the publication online. This launches an in-app reader that allows you to get the pages streamed to you.

The problem with this, of course, is that you are delivered an issue that was not designed for the tablet's display but for print. Therefore, fonts are too small, and navigation is awkward.
While one of ads featured some short audio, the rest of the edition simply does not take advantage of what a tablet can deliver for the reader.

Mygazines's own app, Going Digital, is built in a similar fashion to South Bay Digs. It, too, opens to a library page where you can download the issues or read online. What's kind of funny about Mygazines's own content is that it, too, does not fit the tablet page. Instead one gets pages that float on the screen, though the fonts are, at least, large enough to make reading the copy easier.

Obviously, TNM is no fan of replica editions. But I wouldn't call these replica editions. Rather the Mygazines apps are really replicas of replica editions – two generations removed from the art director's vision of the final product. The equivalent might be a Cinemascope movie that is "edited" to fit on a standard sized television screen, and then is streamed to a smartphone.