On Tuesday of this week TNM looked at the photography eBook produced by the staff of The Seattle Times (see post here with video walk-through). In that project, a year in review as seen in the staff's photographs, the production team used Apple's free software package iBooks Author to produce a digital book that could be updated in the future, but would be a one-time purchase for readers.
While the Seattle paper does not have a paywall on its website, it does have mobile and tablet apps (though, to be honest, they are not worth the price of admission), so it makes sense that the eBook would be seen as a separate product from the existing digital offerings of the paper.
But in the case of the Trib, which has several digital magazines inside the Apple Newsstand, the paper has chose to go with a subscription model and continue to use the Newsstand.
Chicago Tribune Photography requires a $0.99 annual subscription - and, by the way, the single issue price is also $0.99. The pricing model, being low, means that there will be no expectations of regular issues, though that seems to be the plan.
Introducing the new Chicago Tribune Photography app. Inside each edition you’ll find the most compelling news, sports, features, portrait and pictorial photography from the Chicago Tribune's staff photographers, available now for the first time in full iPad Retina-ready resolution. – app descriptionWhile iPad Design Editor Ryan E. Smith used Mag+ (I believe) rather than iBooks Author, the basic design of the photography publication is somewhat similar to that of The Seattle Times eBook. Layouts are in landscape only (which, of course, is the way most photos taken with a DSLR will be shot).
Because the app supports retina display iPads, the file size of the new tablet edition is still large, over 300 MB, though that is about 200 MB smaller than The Seattle Times eBook that used iBooks Author for its creation.
Is using a digital magazine design solution a good alternative to creating an eBook? Yes, I think so. It especially makes a lot of sense when the paper producing the digital publication already has a paywall system in place.
But that is where there is a disconnect. Digital subscribers to Tribune's website or its tablet publications like Bear Download and RedEye for iPad do not automatically gain access to this new digital magazine. That is a sign that left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.
The NYT has been especially bad at becoming what I like to call a serial launcher. Tribune Interactive, on the other hand, has launched several new and very good new digital products, this one should be part of the family of products that will justify in the minds of its readers that they should sign up for its digital subscription plans. Then charge that $0.99 fee only to non subscribers (and then they might consider raising that price a bit).