If you use Android, your selection of reading material just ballooned around 15 million publications: Issuu, the digital publishing platform that allows titles large and small to provide a pleasant digital viewing experience, has finally released an Android app.
With Facebook pushing into the mobile reader experience with its impending Paper project and mobile reader Flipboard aiming to snag 150 million users in 2014, the market for mobile reader platforms should be tough this year.
But Issuu isn’t a direct competitor to the kind of mobile readers that focus on aggregating web and social content; Issuu specializes in amassing magazine and newspaper content in an especially high-gloss reading experience. From tiny feminist Australian surfing magazines to major glossies like Bon Appetit, Issuu is, in this tech journalist’s humble opinion, the most pleasant online destination to read periodicals. It’s a little more luxurious, a little more niche (though 83 million users is nothing to sneeze at), and now it’s optimized for Android smartphones and tablets.
Digital Trends spoke to Issuu CEO Joe Hyrkin about the platform’s new app the day before it launched.
Hyrkin was enthusiastic about Issuu’s solid footing as it begins to expand into mobile. “We have over 15 million magazines, newspapers, catalogs – more than 20,000 new publications using us every single day,” he says. “And now, given that we have this huge footprint, we’re re-launching and moving into the app world.” He cited the rise in tablet use as a strong indicator that this was the right time to develop a specifically mobile experience.
To jumpstart its Google Play debut, Issuu is debuting something else along with the app: a partnership with the Huffington Post. Issuu will host Huffington magazine, the media outlet’s highlights reel. So that’s a cool addition to the already-stocked content roster.
But there’s no shocking interface changes or weird quirks lurking in the mobile app. It’s a whole lot like the Web version, intentionally designed to give users a seamless experience as they move from one device to another.
“The app is very much built in association with the web version. One of the things we strongly believe, the experience we’re creating, is that we’re building this ecosystem where we’re helping content connect to the people who actually want to be reading it,” Hyrkin told Digital Trends. This means that on the features on the Web version spill onto mobile: just as you can on desktop, on mobile you can look at the publications you follow, peruse your “Stacks” (which lets you group your favorite reads), the “Explore” section, your feed – all of the main features are present and accounted for, but now the experience is optimized for mobile.
“There’s a nice symbiotic relationship. Any user who has already created a profile, who has created Stacks, who has curated content they like, if they’re following other readers and publications – all of these settings will be available in the Android app. You won’t be starting over. You can easily go between the two.” When users return to the app after a desktop reading session, they’ll be able to resume the piece exactly where they left off, since the app saves your page. It also presents a scrollable ribbon of your most recent previous reads, in case you’re juggling a few stories or articles at once.
Unfortunately, those of use in possession of iOS mobile devices will have to wait for a mobile app for iPhone or iPad, since Issuu is concentrating on Android for now. The company actually attempted to get an iOS app up and running when the App Store was new, but Apple rejected the company’s app three times. Hyrkin doesn’t hold it against them: “We were very early, initially, in the iOS app game in 2009. I think at the time Apple was still figuring out what their own strategy was,” he explains.
Sadly, this tech writer only has a banged-up iPhone 4, so my experience with the Issuu app is limited to a demo given to me by the gracious Issuu team. What I saw impressed me, though I think it would be interesting for Issuu to explore increasing its social functions. It’s very easy to share on the social Web through the app, but I’d like to see native commenting, something to help foster more interactions between fellow Issuu users.