Sunday, July 20, 2008

Turning the pages, online

The Sporting News is launching an e-edition, emailed to subscribers and delivered in an electronic page-turning format. The publication, now based in Charlotte just about a block away from The Observer, has hired some talent from The Observer and elsewhere, with big names in visuals, including Charles Apple.

Mygazines is offering myriad magazines, with the same kind of page-turning feel. Its version of In Style is in the picture.

Scribd offers a similar service, community-based, where readers can upload and download publications in a page-turning format, comment on each other's documents and see most-viewed, most likes and top users.

Smaller publications like The Raleigh Downtowner are offering similar technology to view their work, or they're offering PDFs.

It makes sense in a publishing world of diminishing resources to leverage and reuse the design work already done for a publication. But do the designs of print and web really work together? Is there a way to please both the lovers of print and the lovers of online interactivity at the same time, without having to redesign or re-template for different mediums?

And now, with the IPhone and similar toys, online publishers are forced to reinvent design to fit the small screen, with varying levels of success.

I tested Mygazines on the big consumer of magazines at my house: an 18-year-old who loves visuals, fashion and the computer. Results: too slow to load, and not clickable enough. If it's on a screen, there better be plenty of links.

We didn't even get into the other benefits of printed, glossy magazines -- the passalong ability and portability of visual, beautiful information.

Update Aug. 16: The Magazine Publishers Association has sued the owner of Mygazines, which is incorporated on Anguilla, a British territory in the Caribbean. Details here.

So as all kinds of publishers try to cut costs and leverage work, it's a bit heartening to see that design still matters, and fitting design to the medium is still relevant.

And as I was thinking about this post, something called S3 or "Simple Storage Service" from Amazon went down. Visuals in all kinds of places, from Twitter to Scribd, disappeared. The Internet still worked, mostly, but many sites lost the visual elements of their services.

Change is sometimes frighteningly fast these days, and glitches will happen. As journalists a block away in Charlotte try to make a go of new technology with an interesting format, I wish them luck. We all need it.

Again, we live in interesting times.

(Added July 26) Steve Cavendish, graphics director at the Chicago Tribune, critiques the Sporting News PDF version.
Jakob Nielsen on differences between print and web design, 1999.
Coding Horror, aka Jeff Atwood, on the New York Times' Reader and its format vs. the web format.

No comments: