Thursday, May 19, 2011

The day the iPad 2 came out in Canada, I ordered one online. Turns out it was a good choice – it’s still hard to find them in-store. Since I received it about a month ago, I’ve been having fun testing out different apps from various publishers and developers. There’s good and bad out there, of course. And it’s sure a lot easier to spend money on magazines from the couch, when you don’t have to carry them home. Here are some of my likes and dislikes about the experience so far.

Like: Convenience
No longer do I have to choose which magazine to carry with me, and fold it up in my purse so it gets crumpled and ripped, then accidentally leave it at work and have nothing to read on the way home – or, of course, run out of things to read. The iPad is an all-in-one entertainment station, and perfect for frequent travellers and commuters. I also like clearing the clutter from my coffee table, albeit slowly.

Dislike: Gimmicks
Sometimes you just want to read, you know? You don’t want to have to tap things and slide things. Condé Nast has a bit of a problem with this – for instance, the latest version of Self (all links but the last go to the iTunes store) made you tap for product info in a fashion spread, but for no good reason, because there was already too much text on the page to give the creators any aesthetic reasons to hide the where-to-buy. And some apps are finicky in how the extras work.

Like: Zinio
I have always hated digital editions – on the computer screen. The flip technology is gratuitous and having to zoom in and out is unwieldy. But I have to give it to Zinio – they were in the right place at the right time when it comes to the iPad. It’s extremely convenient to have most of my magazines in one app, and I love the availability of magazines from around the world (my university-aged self is jealous of today’s access to multilingual media).

Dislike: Zinio
That said, Zinio is going to lose its prime position if it doesn’t up its game. I’m sure publishers are to blame for some of the challenges, but the Zinio app is basic at best. Why can’t I browse magazines by country or language? Why are titles not tagged so you can view similar ones you might be interested in? Why is the text quality so low?

Like: Creativity
National Geographic is doing a great job of realizing that magazine apps don’t have to be replicas of magazines. I’ve already blogged about their photo app, and they recently released a new one called 50 Places of a Lifetime – not as good, I think, but a great example of repackaging nonetheless. Epicurious tried and, unfortunately, kind of failed with their Word Games app. New York’s The Cut is excellent. And don’t forget web-based Aggregation, from the local industry’s own Gary Campbell and to which I’ve contributed.

Dislike: File size
My 16 gig iPad (yes, I should have sprung for the 32 gig version) is going to fill up fast with these file sizes. Come on, people, we’re smart. Let’s figure something out here.

Like: Smart use of interactivity
Self has long had workout cards you can pull out of the magazine, and related videos you can access online. On the iPad, the workout videos are right there for you to watch. Simple, easy, but brilliant.

Dislike: Poor communication with readers
Dear Fast Company: Why did magazine issues disappear from your app? I’d like to read them, please.

Like: Flipboard + Instagram. And Flipboard + Longreads.
Try these to see what the non-legacy developers are doing. While you’re at it, check out the Atavist, and wish you’d done it first.

Dislike: Pretending the internet is always there
Kobo is terrible for this, but so are some magazine apps. Don’t forget many users won’t always have internet, whether they’re underground or out of wifi range. Don’t annoy them with stupid alerts or a frozen screen.

Like: Web integration
The Wired app isn’t perfect. But when I was reading the May issue on Via Rail and wanted to share an article on Facebook (a very good one about Chernobyl that you should read), it worked. It was easy. And when people clicked on the link, it took them to that article on the website.

Are you reading magazines on the iPad? What are your likes and dislikes?

About Me
Kat Tancock
Kat Tancock is a freelance writer, editor and digital consultant based in Toronto. She has worked on the sites of major brands including Reader's Digest, Best Health, Canadian Living, Homemakers, Elle Canada and Style at Home and teaches the course Creating Website Editorial at Ryerson University.
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