Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New tablet editions released under the developer's name, Picsean Media, but appear half-finished

Over the past few days nine new apps have appeared inside the Apple Newsstand from a new vendor, Picsean Media. At first blush the apps appear to be a complete disaster. In fact, I had to delete a completed post that tore into the apps for the obvious mistakes that can be seen.

But the story, it turns out is more complex than that. These new tablet editions for the company's publishing clients are not simply replica editions, but native designed digital editions that remind one a bit of the look and feel of iBooks Author.
Last night and this morning there were about a dozen new tablet editions that appeared for the previously unknown (to me) vendor. Two of those apps for sports publisher ASM Publisher have apparently been pulled, but the rest remain.

It is probably the case that all these apps have appeared prematurely as a look at both the app descriptions and the apps themselves show obvious errors and omissions. But the vendor's digital publisher solution does show some promise. These are, or at least will be, good digital editions.

I downloaded a bunch of the new apps including one that has since been pulled (The Giant Insider). Most contain the same errors that involve orientation. If you hold your iPad in landscape the library page will open in portrait. This is no big deal, except the splash page, which appears only for a split second, is upside down. One might be appalled that such an error could occur, but it is far more common that you might image. In fact one developer was so upset with me for pointing this error out on their app that they harassed me for weeks demanding that I pull my post.

The apps also open with an annoying prompt to rate them in the App Store. No matter how many times you open the app you will get this prompt (which in my opinion only pushes readers to downgrade the apps).

As TNM readers know, I have a fetish about the issue of the "seller" name in which apps appear. The Dispatch Printing Company is the owner of The Columbus Dispatch and their app for the daily newspaper appears under the paper's name, surely these new apps could have used that Apple developer account to avoid making it appear that the magazines have been sold off?

The apps were released with generic screenshots that gave readers the false impression that these apps should be read in landscape. But I believe these screenshots were simply placeholders because while I am writing this it appears that new screenshots are appearing.

The problem, as many developers know, is that one never can be sure when their app will get approved and appear in the App Store. One morning you wake up and find that your app is live and you suddenly have to scramble to change out your screenshots or update your app description.

As for the app seen here, Columbus Crave Interactive, the app is pretty sticky, meaning that navigation can be difficult. Also, there are orientation issues that seem to be inherent in the system. The library, for instance, can only be seen in portrait. Most apps that contain digital editions designed for portrait-only still have library pages that can be seen in landscape – this is why the splash page appears to be upside down, it is designed to be seen sideways in portrait, but how would you know that?

The actual digital edition requires you to pay $4.99 for a single edition or $9.99 for a six month subscription. This seems like pretty steep which makes me wonder if the developer is being paid on a revenue share basis.

I think it is probably best if we chalk up many of these errors to growing pains. I like the look of the actual digital editions here so the other issues may seem like minor annoyances once fixed.

In any case, Picsean Media has also released an app that showcases sample pages from its tab editions, Publishing ++. The app description says the app contains "free sample pages", but amazingly this app requires you to buy an issue or subscribe. Yes, you must pay to be sold by these guys!

I don't know, my publishing colleagues, there are sharks out there in the waters. Be very careful.