These days the world is going paperless; Companies are encouraging you to do away with paper bills, certain people will give you emailed receipts and even cinemas are going for the QR code entry on your phone as an alternative to normal tickets too. On the publishing side, eBooks have increased in popularity over the past few years with the wider availability of eBook readers like the Kindle and of course the apps on Android and iOS tablets.
When the first iPad was announced, a very interesting concept was also shown by the guys over at Wired Magazine. The iPad version of Wired was meant to be a digital version of their magazine and instead of just page scans like you would have thought, they actually digitized the entire thing, making use of the newest of new media to make the experience as immersive and interactive as possible. Right from the animated cover, to embedded video to external links and 360-degree VR implementations, it looked like that was the future of publishing. I was sold on this future and hence I bought the iPad.
Many months later, my Wired subscription continues but my iPad is relegated to a toilet manga device and issues of Wired are sprawled strategically across my house and office. How did it come this far? What on earth happened? Wired was the future for Magazines, just not the future for me.
Find out why after the jump
Before we start, don’t get me wrong, the Wired iPad app is amazing. The concept of what it was trying to do was truly incredible, but for now not for me (and I suspect maybe not for some of you too).
The Wired Magazine digital issues are too damn big. Before even being able to read the latest issue of Wired, you need to download it via the app. Now with filesizes ranging from 250 – 350MB this is no mean feat. While our internet connections at home have gotten faster, we forget that with a tablet, the whole point to be truly mobile, not having to rely on WiFi to use it properly (which is why i’d opt for a WiFi+LTE version of a tablet any given day). The downside is that even if we had a blazing fast LTE connection, 300MB is a huge chunk of your download cap! Let’s say that we go to a coffee place that offers unifi and leech off their WiFi for the download, you’re still looking at a decent time in which you’d have to download the magazine which makes for quite a few coffees and time wasted.
To put things into perspective, it would be faster to go out to get a copy of the magazine, rather than let it download (without KL jam of course). Another gripe I had with the app was the poor support for having multiple downloads on simultaneously (which I’m not sure if it has been fixed yet), allowing only 1 download at a time making downloading back issues a pain in the butt.
Yes, I know why it’s so big. Animations, videos and whatever we love about the app takes space. Perhaps we have to cut down on the craziness the advertisers want to put in just Because they can but who are we kidding, advertisers make it possible to do such crazy things in the first place. Well why not get Zinio magazines? They are much smaller and scans of the actual magazines!
2) Layout & Experience
With the advent of Zinio, lots of Magazines are getting with the online movement with some just reproducing their magazine with high quality scans of the pages. This does address my point above, with files often in the sub 100MB range but the problem here isn’t the filesize or the long download times, rather its the lack of a flow in the layout and flipping pages on an iPad is not the same as having a physical magazine to flip through. Some do a great job with the DPS (Double Page Spread), scanning in 1 full image but I don’t want to have to rotate my device or pinch and zoom just to read the DPS. Honestly I’ve even seen some people who leave the DPS scanned as 2 separate pages which is disjointed as best.
This is where I believe the Wired Magazine style is King. The experience was there and pretty much perfect, just after waiting an hour to download it.
3) Tactile Feel
Now this is purely just me, I suspect many of you are not too fussed about such things but for me, the tactile feel of a magazine is super important. Wired UK for example uses quite solid paper for its cover and inserts along with creative covers now and again. Another example of a magazine I enjoy reading is Monocle which uses different textured paper for certain sections and it goes wonderfully well when reading it. Also, along the spine, if you collect all of the issues you will definitely get a kick from the sequential number pattern!
Also on a print magazine, Inserts, Specials and creative buys are something different and not just another image on the tablet. Let’s look at the Vogue September issue, a yearly omnibus for the fashion behemoths that people buy for the ads. On paper this is a tome that sums up the year for them and the most sought after issue every year, but digitally it looks like just any other.
4) Supporting The Industry
While I know that buying the app may also go a way to support the magazine and the industry as a whole, I feel that increasing circulation numbers may just be a better way to do that. Especially with local magazines, I tend to buy them on top of reading the news on their sites. Hanger, Juice, NewMan, Esquire and the like, I do love buying hard copies and just keeping them to read, besides it’s easier to clip out tear sheets when you contribute! That’s not to say I’m shunning the online community for my news (being part of it as well it just doesn’t make sense), I love local stuff like the new Gumball Magazine which I always joke has content customised just for me.
It’s not just the local magazines that I support. My other interest is Streetwear and Sneakers so the digital version of magazines like Sense, BANG!, Touch, Sneaker Freaker, Shoe Master and the like are no where as good as the print copies. Let’s not forget the sick GWP (Gift With Purchase) you get when you buy streetwear magazines! For example, my favourite brand Mastermind Japan is closing down this year and for the past couple of years they have had a series of magazines starting with the ominously titled -4 right down to this year’s 0 made for incredible collectors set instead of just a file on my iPad.
It’s not the end of the road no, it’s not even close
It’s not all bad things with digital magazines, there are so many reasons to love them in the first place. First and foremost they are cheap compared to the paper counterparts! An issue of Wired is US$4 and a subscription is under 20. Compare this to the RM30-40 prices for the print copy, you’ll see why people prefer it. Another point goes back to my title, I need all the space in the world for the magazines so as not to look like a hoarding hermit. Buy a digital magazine and you’ll get everything in the convenience of a couple of gigabytes, organized for you, even letting you know where you left off.
I guess with this, the jury may still be out because there are just so many pros and cons to both sides. Maybe my mind will change when I get a new tablet (N7 or iPad Mini…) and I can just use it to complement a growing print collection. There is no doubt that Wired got it right with how magazines are going to transcend the status quo but my question is that is everything else ready to handle the big plans publishers have for the future?
For now, I’m still trying to stock this darn shelf. Anyone seen my copy of Sneaker Freaker 22?