Will Digital Magazines Die or Deliver on Apple’s iPad?

If ever the print industry needed a knight in shining armor to reverse the world’s growing preference for blogs, online news and YouTube, it’s now. And if any device can don the armor and play the part, it’s Apple’s iPad.

While e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle gave spark to a sputtering print industry by closely replicating the book experience, Apple’s iPad promises to turbocharge it. Wired’s iPad demo depicts words that change before the eye with the virtual press of a button, cars that spin with a swipe, pages that slide across the screen like they’re on roller skates. VIVmag’s cinematic motion magazine feature drops text into a moving, three-dimensional film noir world that zips viewers between blocks of text through windows and walls, as if rooms were pages. A virtual copy of Sports Illustrated lets readers rearrange stories into the order they want, hear the roar of a stadium during a game, and drag players on their fantasy teams around on a whim.

Welcome to the next-generation magazine. But does any of this technology actually make magazines any better? Will animation, embedded video and mini games really save publishers, or we failing to see a gimmick dressed as a savior?

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Print Comes to Life

Before dismissing the “motion magazine” on hype alone, it’s worth exploring some of the amazing things they actually can pull off – and potentially could in the future.

L.A.-based photographer Alexx Henry has been at the forefront of the motion magazine craze, camera in hand, since the very beginning. The man who both Outdoor magazine’s first motion cover, and VIVMag’s provocative Sex Fears featurette, sees devices like the iPad opening a whole new door for storytelling.

“The iPad is all about potential. It enables a digital magazine to create new content and create motion content, to really break out of the boundaries they’ve been stuck in for so long.”

“The thing that I think is really exciting about the digital magazine experience is that it’s a combination of the curated experience – a journey that someone is going to take you on – and an experience that you can take yourself on,” Henry says. “It’s like somebody’s laying out a series of paths for you to go down. You can start down the path and you can continue down their path, or you can jump around and sort of have your own experience.”

The linear bundle of pages that used to land in your magazine every month has come unbound. You can not only explore stories in any order you want – as you may have already by flipping pages – but focus on what matters to you. Make the pictures you want to see, bigger. Explore a map of a place a writer is describing. Spin a table of statistics into a chart with the press of a button, or watch numbers from an article updated in real time.

“The iPad is all about potential,” Henry says. “It enables a digital magazine to create new content and create motion content, to really break out of the boundaries they’ve been stuck in for so long.”

But didn’t the Web break those boundaries ten years ago?


But try bringing a laptop to the beach. While HTML allowed creative types to break the rules of print, and applications like Flash allowed Web developers to push even further with richer, animated content, that was just software, still bound to the rigid restraints of a computer. To dismiss the iPad as a platform for motion magazines because computers can already do it is akin to dismissing the Kindle because computers with monochrome monitors could display readable text 30 years ago. Amazon has already sold over 3 million Kindles. Clearly, the package makes a difference.

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