Thursday, December 15, 2011

Apple's Newsstand reaches the 1,000 mark; Hearst Communications releases replica edition for Road & Track

That didn't take long: Apple's Newsstand, introduced with the launch of iOS 5, has reached the 1,000 mark – over one thousand iPad apps are now inside the U.S. App Store version of Newsstand.

I don't know whether this should be a reason to celebrate or be depressed. The 1,000 mark was reached with the release of a bunch of new magazines, most of which were not released under the publisher's name but under the names of the vendors that created them.

It can't truly be said that publishers have embraced the new medium of tablet publishing as much as it can be said that companies have found something new to sell publishers.

One of the newest magazines now available inside Newsstand comes from Hearst Communications: Road & Track. Hearst's magazine division now has 17 apps available for the iPad, and seven of them can be found inside Newsstand (Seventeen Magazine's app was updated yesterday to move it into Newsstand).

The app, Road & Track Magazine, is free to download, with subscriptions inside the app sold at $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year. Individual issues can be purchased at $4.99, though I would guess that most readers who own an iPad know that the best way to test out a magazine that does not offer a free sample issue is to subscribe using the monthly option, then cancel when they come to the conclusion that they don't like the magazine, or the app.

Road & Track is one of those magazines that I enjoy reading while getting my tires replaced. This month's cover features a Ferrari, so that was enough for me to check it out.

But after only a few pages I was reminded of the magazines I see at the dentist's office, or rather the dentist experience: it was painful to read.

Two-page spreads up front made no sense whatsoever at first as the second page of the ads were missing until you swiped. Because while one can read this app in both portrait or landscape, the type is designed for the dimensions of a print magazine, not a digital one. So keeping the magazine in portrait at least gives the reader a fighting chance to read the copy.
"Fighting" is exactly what the reader have to do: one must constantly move their tablet between portrait and landscape, zoom in and out.

It's a lot of work to read the magazine in this app, one that quickly became not worth the effort. But even zooming in has a limited effect as one can only move in so far, so reading the page seen above-left proved difficult, to say the least.

I'm sure enthusiasts will be happy that there is now a tablet edition of Road & Track, but the use of a replica edition publishing solution will no doubt limit the audience that will be attracted to it.

After 20 months of the iPad, it is obvious that many publishers just don't like tablets, and maybe they should stay away from the medium. It would be better for iPad owners if there were far less magazines available inside Newsstand, not more. That way it would be easier to find magazines that are readable and more enjoyable on their tablets.
Left: The library page where readers can subscribe or buy individual issues; Middle: The Table of Contents contains one of the few interactive features in the app – live links to the articles; Right: A two-page spread from Mazda makes little sense in portrait as the right-hand page contains the copy.