Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gramophone brings a thousand back issues to readers through its Exact Editions apps

This year marks the 90th anniversary of Gramophone, the magazine that has been the bible of classical music lovers for most of that time. Founded in 1923 by the Scottish author Compton Mackenzie, Gramophone is today owned by the U.K. publisher Haymarket.

Today the magazine is promoting its incredible archive of a thousand back issues, available through its app from Exact Editions. Archives of back issues, especially when they are as valuable to readers as these, are the exact right use of replica editions.

"We are delighted to launch this unique new magazine archive that traces the history of recorded classical music with our partners at Exact Editions," Luca Da Re, Brand Manager of Haymarket Media Group said. "Making all of the 110,000 pages of the archive searchable and available on PC, Apple and Android devices is a real breakthrough and we know classical music lovers will get hours of pleasure exploring Gramophone from issue 1 in April 1923."

The Gramophone Magazine app (iTunes link) is available for the iPad and Android tablets, as well as for the PC. Readers must subscribe directly through the Gramophone website as the app will only deliver a select number of pages to nonsubscribers.

There is no subscription page in the app, instead once a reader navigates through a few sample pages they then stumble upon a place where they can subscribe. It is terribly confusing, and not at all the standard way a reader subscribes in the Newsstand.
If you can read this your eyes are better than mine.
But choosing a replica approach to archives makes perfect sense – there is simply no reason why someone would reformat 90 years of print magazines.

But the problem is that reading these replicas is a real pain – and while the effort may be worth it for issues from the 20's, it is not a very intelligent solution for today's issues.

The digital replicas do "contain" multimedia links. Tapping a link takes you out of the magazine to iTunes, where they are stranded.

Music and movie magazines are a great place where start-ups can dominate the digital field. A modern music magazine should be about text anyways, at least not on a tablet or smartphone, it is about audio (and video). So while I'm definitely grateful that 90 years of back issues of Gramophone are now available, but whether I feel it is worth the price of admission is questionable since the approach to today's issues is, well, antiquated.


Anonymous said...

Hi Douglas,

Thank you for spotting (and blogging about) the release of our new app yesterday. We’re very proud of it here at Gramophone, and I’m glad to read you approve of the digital edition format and the introduction of the archive content. I would like to address the reservations you raised about the app – I hope you find this information useful and that it enhances your enjoyment of our App.

1. The app is designed so that those who aren’t familiar with the magazine can try the first few pages for free before being presented with an option to buy. While it isn’t standard (most mag apps require you to pay before you see any content at all) we haven’t experienced negative feedback about this and we believe that it is important that our audience can “try before they buy” our App.
2. When viewing the App via i-phone i-pad, you can use the zoom functionality to make reading specific articles easier. This is common to almost all replica magazine apps.
3. You can easily get back to the App from iTunes by swiping from right to left with 4 fingers on the screen. This allows you to go from one open programme to the next. Our user guide explains this to new users (along with other aspects of i-pad functionality). The user guide is the opening 2 pages of every new digital issue.

The video user guide you can find here should also help readers get to grips with much of the functionality.

Thank you again.

Luca Da Re
Gramophone Brand Manager

Douglas Hebbard said...

Thank you for your comment.

My objection to replica editions is pretty consistent: I find them hard to read, and pinch-to-zoom is something that, while helpful, is never a substitute for a natively design tablet edition where the fonts are readable when the page launches.

I hope Gramophone, which is one of my favorite magazines in the world, will one day consider designing its tablet editions for tablets rather than for print.