Digital Magazines: Something Worth Paying For?
Last time in the technology section at Guru, we reviewed a selection of free magazine Apps for the iPad. Since then, digital periodicals have been multiplying faster than Ben’s (Media Guru) chickens have been laying eggs. Not wanting to be left behind, and hoping to minimise the impact of escalating printing costs, publishing houses have been going hammer-and-tongs to churn out tablet-friendly versions of familiar magazine brands.
Being in the digital magazine publishing business ourselves, we’ve got vested interests in what the big players are up to. We don’t have their budget and ours is free to download (and we think it’s pretty good – even if we do say so ourselves). In the midst of tough economic times, most of us are starting to feel the pinch. So if we’re going to shell out hard cash – it had better be worth it.
Donning our Guru adjudicator hat once again (and digging into our pockets), we put three of the most popular premium iPad magazines through their paces to see just how good they really are…
The Top iPad Magazine Apps – Reviewed!
Wired for the iPad
What is it?
What’s it like? Quite literally it’s eye candy on a digital slate. Videos, interactive 3D panoramas and moving graphics are beautifully embedded and woven around articles. Progammers and designer have clearly been worked hard to give an effect that is an intuitive and pleasant finger-swiping affair.
Pros: The Wired App for iPad is an extremely polished product. Overflowing with interactivity, at times it feels like a cross between a video game and a reading experience. Beautiful and visually striking – it’s the sort of thing that will get envious stares from fellow commuters on the train to work.
Cons: The magazine is a hefty download: several hundred megabytes per issue will leave you twiddling your thumbs (and could mean you having to clear out your music collection to fit several issues on your treasured tablet). Amusingly, one NY Times journalist found it was quicker to drive to the local store than wait for the download! In terms of readability – we Gurus were divided: for some of us, the highly interactive approach was fun, but others found it confusing and got in the way of reading.
Worth the cash? Good content and beautifully designed, Wired for iPad has interactivity in abundance: This is like Encarta ‘3.0’. You will either enjoy its novel features or find it irritating. Try the sample issue first and see if it’s for you.
The Economist for iPad
What is it?
What’s it like? Ridiculously straight-forward. A clan interface with clear text subdivided into sections, all navigated by a tap or finger swipe. It’s a digital version of the paper version without much extra.
Pros: It’s all very easy to use, which lets you get on with the job of reading the text. An ‘audio’ version of each article is included – which is a thoughtful touch and a plus for anyone with vision problems (or who is bored of reading).
Cons: Compared to the technological tour de force of Wired, the Economist is decidedly pedestrian. Whole page advertisements are an awkward interruption to an otherwise pleasant reading experience. Given the potentials of the digital platform, some may feel disappointed at the simplicity.
Worth the cash? The Economist App for the iPad is user-friendly and functional. Given its small download size, you could feasibly download it via a 3G connection whilst sitting in the park. If you want bells and whistles, you’ll feel more than a little disappointed.
National Geographic for the iPad
What is it?
What’s it like? Breaking from the conventional left-to-right reading experience, articles are read vertically (like a webpage). Beautiful photographs (of course), maps and 3D models intersperse the writing. Navigation is simple with plenty of interactive buttons lurking to reveal additional information.
Pros: A well put together product which manages to capture the ‘National Geographic’ feel. An easy to use interface and plenty of digital-only extras will help you to not feel short-changed.
Cons: It’s not an entirely glitch-free App: some of the interactive sliding text panels are clumsy and feel unnecessary (why make something complicated – when a block of text does the same thing?)
Worth the cash? National Geographic on the iPad is a good compromise between reading and interactivity. Fans of the paper version will be positively pleased with this digital offering.
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