Friday, March 1, 2013

The publisher of Union Wakeboarder makes some very unfortunate decisions in launching its Newsstand app

There is little secret that TNM is very much against replica editions, so let's not go over that ground again. But some replica makers are simply worse than others and that publishers would deal with these companies is always a source of amazement and confusion.

Today PixelMags, a company I've ragged on in the past released into the Apple Newsstand a universal app for the Australian magazine Union Wakeboarder. The publisher is Eighty Publishers, and their website for the magazine is really very nice. That they would have chosen a replica edition maker for their digital edition is a strange decision because the magazine had so many things going for it when launching a tablet edition.

For one thing, the magazine is only published four times a year, giving the publisher plenty of time to produce a natively designed tablet edition. For another, the magazine uses a landscape design, very unusual for a magazine – it is, obviously, seemingly built for a tablet's display, is it not?
 photo UnionWake-iPhone5-sm_zpsf06b1ee0.gif
But the publisher didn't do this, instead they have released what has to be one of the worst iPhone apps I've ever seen, though the iPad version is a bit better.

First off, PixelMags apparently doesn't support the iPhone 5. So once the app opens one is taken to a library page that doesn't fit the iPhone's display. This is most definitely a bad sign.

But the real problem, in my opinion, is the level of care the vendor gives their client inside the App Store. The app is shown not in landscape, the obvious way the digital magazine is to be read, but in portrait. The vendor is basically crying out "do not download this!"

On the iPad things seem a bit better, for one things the library at least fits the screen. But being a replica, what you are going to get, of course, are simply images of the pages. In the case of Union Wakeboarder the print magazine is filled with ads – congratulations, by the way – so the digital edition opens up with lots of these ads. (Even in landscape the pages don't quite fit the dimensions of the iPad, with small black stripes visible at the top and bottom of each page.)
 photo UnionWake-iPad-sm_zpsbfdf191a.jpg
Everything is fine until you hit the first editorial page and are confronted with the microscopic text. The usual fall back of replica edition makers is that the reader can use pinch-to-zoom to read the text. This is a lousy solution, though in the early days of the iPad many observers thought this would simply be the way reading on a tablet would be – unless a native app solution was employed.

But this app doesn't support pinch-to-zoom – really.

Many digital media observers believe quite firmly that print publishers will one day go away, completely. I've never held that view, but looking at this new digital magazine does show that they have a point.