Thursday, January 31, 2013

New digital art tablet magazine proves a buggy mess

The desire to get a personal magazine into Apple's Newsstand is so powerful that some people will allow their better judgement to be suspended for the opportunity to see their digital magazine in the App Store. The search for a good, low cost digital publishing remains elusive, which is why my advice remains the same: don't launch if you can not afford it, but if you can, don't go cheap. And remember, any new digital product is a reflection of the publisher's view of their title and its team.

Launched two days ago into the Newsstand was a promising independent magazine, SFCALR – which stands for Sci-Fi Concept Art. Ian Blaza is credited with being publisher, while James Whittington is credited as being the new digital magazine's editor.

The problem is seen right there in the App Store, though – Appeal Software, the maker of the app, is listed as the seller. That is always, always a bad sign – without exception. An Apple developer account is only $99 so there is no excuse for someone to let a company put their name in the App Store as seller. If they do, then that company should pay the publisher for the privilege, don't you think?

Upon opening the app one is confronted with the pretty damn splash page I've seen (see below). The fact that the app had to process its file, seemingly forever, was offset by the pretty splash page (at least somewhat). But then more troubles: the library page doesn't offer a subscription, which is odd for a digital magazine found inside the Newsstand. Also, the "Buy" button doesn't tell you what the price is for the one issue inside the app. It's only 99 cents (66p in he UK), so I ponied up in order to tell the story.
Then the issue downloaded and – poof – crash city. So now I had to open up the app again and watch that pretty splash page some more. Then the issue inside turned out to be simple image pages with no interactivity to be found. That is OK, after all, there is nothing wrong with a well designed page, one designed specifically for the iPad. And it is clear that the folks behind the digital magazine have design skills.

But then the app started to perform some sort of acid inspired zone out. I was reminded of the scene in The Patriot – that ridiculous Mel Gibson vehicle which plays endless on weekends on cable TV - where the South Carolina woman watches the British ship explode and gleefully proclaims "Oh, fireworks, how lovely." Then – poof – the app crashed again.

I suppose it is good, in the end, that Appeal Software has their name on this app. If I were one of the two gents that did all the work to create this digital magazine and was stuck with these results with my name on the app I'd be embarrassed. Hopefully, this digital magazine app did not cost the publisher much, if any investment. Because, if so, then – poof – it is gone.
* For the record, the iPad I use to test apps is not the very latest edition, it is a "new iPad", the 3rd generation. I would think that a tablet of this generation should handle any new app coming down the pipe – but it is possible that an app, designed and tested only on the latest technology might not perform as expected on an older model.