Monday, May 13, 2013

Three new tablet editions use PDF solutions to build their digital magazines – some replicas, others designed specifically for the iPad

Big print magazine publishers are not the only ones using replica edition vendors to create and distribute their magazines. Small, citizen publishers are finding that the most cost effective way to distribute a digital magazine is by using one of the PDF-based services as well.

Ultimately, the small problems arise with new digital publications as they do with the major commercial titles: if the magazine does not look good reduced down in size it will not really work on the iPad.

Of the three magazines seen here one was built using MagCast, the other two were built using Better Press.

Craft Beer Magazine is being published by Fredrik Aurdal using MagCast, a platform that is being used by quite a number of citizen publishers who want a simple platform solution, but are going digital-only.

Aurdal, who is from Walnut, California (east of Los Angeles), has designed his PDF pages to fit the iPad, then uploaded to the the vendor and, presto, instant tablet magazine.

The key, though, is the creation of the PDFs. With most replicas, the page is created for one medium, then the PDF is made without alterations. With many of the MagCast magazines the designers are starting with a page that is specifically built for the iPad so the chances that the end result will be readable are pretty good.

Why would-be publishers who are building tablet-only pubs would have migrated to MagCast is a little interesting, as any PDF service could, in theory, be used to build a digital-only magazine. But with MagCast the costs are set at $297 a month or $3,564 a year (yep, no discount).

Green Child Magazine is not about kids from Mars, but is about organic products, healthy nutrition, holistic wellness and parenting advice. The digital-only publication can be accessed for free on the website so how it can get away with charging in the Newsstand is a bit of a mystery – my guess is that Apple's review team simply isn't that concerned with these issues anymore, now that there are thousands of titles in the App Store.

Green Child is is a bit mis-sized for the iPad, but only just slightly. As is typical, the publisher did not make any adjustments for the size of the iPad's screen, even though simply adding a little bit of white space at the top and bottom would not only have made the magazine fit better, but would have make it look better, too (lack of white space is usually a tell tale sign of a citizen publishing effort).

The publisher here has chosen to use Better Press which has a completely different price model: 5 cents a download. If a new digital magazine gets 1,000 downloads in a month the cost (obviously) only $50 (but at 10,000 downloads the solution then is more expensive than MagCast).

Both magazine appear under the name of the publisher, meaning that the people behind the magazine went to the trouble of signing up (and paying the $999 fee) to become Apple developers.

One can understand why a citizen publisher would be attracted to a PDF publishing solution. But for Round Magazine, which uses the app description to brag about winning the "Creativity International Gold Award for Magazine Design" one really left wondering what they were thinking.

The new magazine app appears under the name of the vendor, something that will be a problem should they decide to launch their own app later. Then Better Press made a mess of the links, with the Better Press link going to the magazine's website, and the magazine's link going to the vendor.