Tuesday, February 12, 2013

B2B publisher launches new digital trade publication; designs tablet edition and online flipbook in the form of a print magazine, right on down to the fonts and layouts

Imagine for a minute that you have been given a task to create a sign for, say, a garage sale. You buy a giant piece of cardboard and a few magic markers and you give them to an artist. An hour later they come back and give you the sign: a giant piece of cardboard with a small line of text drawn in the upper right hand corner saying "Garbage Sale". You ask the artist "you had the whole sheet of cardboard to make the sign, why did you just use a small portion of the canvas?" They reply "because a book is not as big as this piece of cardboard, so I designed for the size of a book."

Would that make any sense to you? Yet each month publishers release tablet editions that are designed for the size of a print magazine then shrunk down. But worse, sometimes you see a publisher design a "digital magazine" based on the size of print. It boggles the mind makes you weep for the state of our industry.
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Today I downloaded Residential Building Products and Technology, a brand new digital-only magazine that appears to have been designed for print, then converted into a Flash flipbook for online reading, and a new universal iOS app for reading on an iPad or iPhone.

Yes, that is the cover you are seeing at left, it does not fit the display of the iPad. It looks much sillier on the iPhone, believe me. As for the articles, again they were designed for the one platform that will never appear on: print. Why would someone do that? As for the online version, it is exactly the same, designed for print. Reading it online or on the iPad requires pinch-to-zoom to have a chance at being able to read it. On the iPhone, well, if you set your document to use fonts that are less than 1pt in size you will get an idea of the experience.
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As for the articles, here at right is a product review page where the product photos have numbers next to them. On a real digital magazine, one designed for the tablet, one would tap the numbers and the captions would appear. Here, as in print, the numbers refer to text captions found elsewhere on the page. You'll also see that the pages are numbered as in a print magazine, with even numbers to the left and odd numbers to the right.

We can laugh, we can make fun of things like this. But, really, this is not funny. Ultimately a company will go out of business and people will lose their jobs over this kind of publishing. This is most certainly not funny.

My guess is that the reason the publisher (name withheld because there is no reason to pile on) did this is that they were really designing for Nxtbook's idea of a digital magazine – those Flash-driven flipbooks that replicate print, only at a fraction of the size, and with that fake page-turning sound built in. The apps, I would guess, were thrown in (please, I hope they didn't pay for them).

My advice, if offered, would be to dump the flipbook, dump the app, and start over. The property's website is attractive, but I see it is completely devoid of advertising. One can tell that this is a company that feels very comfortable with print, but not at all with digital.

Of all the stories I write here at TNM ones like this can be guaranteed never to be forwarded or retweeted by the publisher or the various magazine trade associations. But I hope they are read, nonetheless.  For every really fantastic tablet edition, such as the new ones released by GIE Media recently, or the innovative ones coming out of Europe, there are these digital products that don't stand a chance of success. We can do better, we really can.