Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Santa Clara Review & WLT: University art and literary magazines go digital with natively designed tablet editions

For a number of years now I have been invited to speak at the local high school to students that produce the annual literary review. That class is usually made up of a couple very dedicated students who take the class at least twice, and others who take the class because taking an actual drawing class is completely out of the question. The publication that the students produce is pretty darned good and has won some awards in state competitions – no thanks to me, really. The fact is that the class and its teacher have never taken my main advice: produce a digital product in addition to the printed one.

The advantages of producing a digital product is that a website would drive demand for the printed product through teasing of the contents, and it would serve as a place where submissions that didn't quite make the printed product could be published. (Think of the arguments that could be avoided between editors when one says "OK, let's put in on the website, but not the print publication.")

It's been a year or two since I've been invited back because, frankly, I think the teachers are tired of me telling them that they are doing their students a major disservice by training them for jobs that simply won't exist when they leave school, while failing to even admit that publishing has evolved since they graduated college.

When the iPad was first launched in April of 2010 I waited to see if we'd start seeing tablet publications from students appear and it was amazing to see one show up that very first week as the students at Abilene Christian University launched at a tablet edition for The Optimist. Sadly, that has not been updated since June 2011.
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But two new apps have been released this week from university settings, and they show that students and professors involved in creating digital publications are much more interested in building native digital magazines than they are simply reproducing the print one.

Santa Clara Review is a student-edited literary magazine which publishes poetry, fiction and non-fiction, and art. Stephen Layton is the editor, and Kirk Glaser is the faculty advisor.

The app and the publications inside is free of charge, though one can subscribe to the Santa Clara Review as the app supports the Apple Newsstand. (On the website one can also download a eReader version of the publication, as well.)

The app edition can be read in both portrait and landscape and is thoroughly native and very well done. One feature I found interesting is that when one taps on the cover inside the library to download the issue one is taken not to the "cover" but to a page that shows thumbnails of the digital pages. One than can then start reading at any point in the issue, or one can tap ont he first image, the cover, and navigate from there.

The hope is certainly that in the future the publication team will continue with their digital version long after those that launched this app have graduated.

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While Santa Clara Review has the feeling of a digital magazine designed from scratch for the iPad, WLT Magazine from University of Oklahoma Printing Services feels a bit more like a print magazine converted to the tablet platform. But this is no replica edition.

While the Santa Clara magazine features student submissions, WLT (World Literature Today) is a review of, well, world literature (that was pretty obvious, wasn't it?). But like the previous digital magazine, it is designed for the iPad natively, but has a bit of a different mission.

One assumes that WLT has many subscribers from outside the university and so readers are familiar with the look and feel of the print magazine. The digital edition, therefore, has the mission of both making existing readers feel comfortable, while attracting new digital readers. (The magazine was founded as Books Abroad in 1927 by Roy Temple House, then the chair of the Department of Modern Languages at the university.)

I found the font choices inside the digital edition a bit small and print-like for my taste (and eyes) but otherwise the digital edition of WTL is a beautiful read.

WLT is a bi-monthly, whereas the Santa Clara Review is produced in the fall and spring. But WLT is produced by the staff, with the students serving as interns. Robert Con Davis-Undiano is the executive director & Neustadt Professor, Daniel Simon is assistant director and the editor-in-chief, while Madeline Alford is the president of the student advisory board.

The app description says that a subscription to the digital edition costs $14.99 per year. But the app has launched with the issue inside the library free of charge – this may have been a mistake. WLT currently has a digital edition available through Zinio also priced at $15 so one assumes that the app will soon be charging for the iPad edition, as well. (Sometimes these things happen because I download the app as soon as it appears in the App Store.)