Almost Unfair to Bash Magazines on iPads at this Point…

After buying Project from Virgin (see above image) I’ve almost bought the first issue of most blog worthy iPad magazine apps. I bought Wired, Glamor, New York Magazine, the New Yorker, Time, Popular Mechanics, some food mag that I can’t even remember the name of and stuff that wasn’t really even an app like Dazed. I’m just about the earliest adopter out there when it comes to trying to deconstruct what media companies are doing with apps. I have not bought a second issue from any of them.

There’s a couple reasons for this—the stuff is designed for paper, not a screen. I really have to wonder if anyone that designed for the iPad has actually tried reading the type they’ve set on screen. I also wonder if they actually use a web browser to read stuff. If so, I’d like to know their reading habits on screen and if they actually own an iPad. The type is awful, there’s zero consideration for line length, leading and pace. It’s petty easy to blame Adobe, inDesign and their workflow programs. But I also have to wonder if left in the hands of developers and engineers if we’d be better off—I doubt it.

While most of Virgin’s Project looked like it was designed in inDesign there’s aspects like the type placed over video that makes me hopeful that new programs will be developed for the iPad. Print programs can’t import video. The biggest issue holding back new methods of publishing is using print programs like inDesign. Experts in readability on paper have done a poor job translating the experience on screen. I hope some of the people dropping type try reading what they’re setting for screen because it’s not pretty. Trying to replicate one experience onto another really ignores the potential advantages. Hopefully they realize this before it’s too late. I also hope there’s a publication next year that makes me want to buy a second edition.

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  • Robert LIttle

    Completely agree. Media companies just haven’t sorted out what it means to do high production value editorial digitally. Not sure anyone has yet.

    On a side note, seems like there just aren’t many apps outside of inDesign that are capable of dealing with multipage documents to the degree of a magazine. IF that’s the format the digital magazine should adhere to. Since none of these apps render real type (except Popular Mechanics) the type will generally have a blurry quality. They’re almost certainly planning to run quick exports to other tablets. So they aren’t necessarily paying perfect attention to the iPads exact resolution and type rendering.

    It’s a process.

  • Daniel Gray

    The goalposts of the whole readability issue are going to shift significantly in a few months if Apple do bring the much higher-resolution Retina screen to the next model of iPad. It’ll be interesting to see what impact that has on these magazines. Plus, what might be the opportunities of having a magazine that also happens to have a built in camera?

  • Terri Stone

    I would love your feedback on The InDesign Magazine app. We’ve only published one iPad-specific issue so far, a best-of compilation.

    Because it’s all so new, we experimented with different layouts and interface elements. (A video explains some of them: