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February 6, 2011 / teknolog

Reading magazines on the iPad

Wired on the iPad

It wasn’t love at first sight for me. In fact, it took at least 3 months before I really started using the iPad. From the day it was announced, about a year ago, the moniker “oversized iPod” stuck with me, and I honestly didn’t see the potential.

But now I am a believer. The iPad is excellent for reading long form content. In fact, itis better than the Kindle! The beautiful colours and proper LED backlit whiteness are joys for the eye, and after years of non-stop computer use it seems my eyes can take hours of LCD reading (though we all wish for a high res screen on the iPad2).

These are still early days, however, and in many ways it shows. It seems everybody develops their own reader software, each of which works a bit differently, and not all of them equally well.

My two favorite iPad magazines are Wired and The Economist. I was a keen Wired reader about 10 years ago, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the iPad version. You get the same glorious graphics, and the text content is obviously the same as the print version. There are a number of shortcomings, however. Navigation is a bit particular, with distinct articles being laid out horizontally, while the pages that make up the article are laid out vertically. Also, text can not be re-formatted at all, and the portrait and landscape orientations typically have entirely different content, which is confusing. But as I said, these are early days, and kudos to Wired for trying to push the medium.

The Economist, being a bit more conservative and not as dependent on glitzy formatting, has a much more fluid reader. Text and pictures are automatically reformatted when you switch between portrait and landscape, and pinching allows you to resize the text. Very smooth. Navigating the magazine is very intuitive, because it works just like a print magazine, and it properly remembers the last article you read so that you can get back to it.

Wired is trying to push the medium a bit more than does The Economist, however this doesn’t always work well. 360 degree photographs are great, video content is fun, and tappable information boxes and diagrams with more information is neat. But sometimes it is hard to know where one can tap, and the sheer amount of user instructions embedded in the text, while needed, is annoying. Also, the touch controls are not great and the app regularly confuses tapping and swiping.

To some extent, Magazines on the iPad remind me of the CD-ROM productions of yesteryear. The medium is young, and we have far from understood its potential yet. But the potential is there! I’m confident that in a year’s time, tablet magazine reading will be an even more enjoyable experience.


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