Thursday, February 04, 2010

Getting small- and medium-sized magazine on to tablet and other e-devices

As things get sorted in the wake of the launch of the iPad, smaller and medium-sized magazines must be wondering how they are going to be able to make their content available on the new device in some affordable way. 
Larger publishing organizations of the likes of Rogers and Transcontinental have the means to do this, if they wish, which they undoubtedly do. But there is a real opportunity here for the magazine industry to work together to create a plain vanilla, open source application that would allow print content from smaller and independent magazines  to be ported to the iPad, iPhone and other electronic reading devices such as the Kindle. Or to make a partnership with a private sector provider to do it on their behalf. All for an annual or one-time fee small enough to be a no-brainer.
This would be similar to the digital newsstand deal that Magazines Canada entered into with Zinio to deliver pdf versions of their members' magazines. However, that is only one way that digital versions can be delivered to readers and not everyone will want to go the "flip book" route; many others will want to be able to deliver content in a way that takes best advantage of the capabilities of the new e-readers.
For readers, it has to be a simple as downloading some sort of "mag-app" from iTunes or similar sources for free or for a small fee. For magazines, there has to be a reasonably straightforward and inexpensive way to convert content from page format to electronic format that enhances the readers' experience. In other words, the whole back end has to be easy for the magazine and virtually invisible to the reader.
Big U.S. magazine and textbook publishers have signed deals to make their material available for the iPad,  iPhone and the iPod Touch . Some work through an arrangement with ScrollMotion, a company that created an application called Iceberg Reader. But such an arrangement is probably way beyond the means of individual smaller magazine publishers. If ever there was a time when collaborative effort is called for, this is it. 
Of course, not everyone is convinced that they want to or can deliver their content digitally, or that they can make any money at it. But probably just as many would be eager to take part in something made affordable because it had a critical mass of participants. And the only practical way for that to happen is if an organization like Magazines Canada were to front the process, pull together a working group to draw up the specs and negotiate whatever deals are necessary to keep Canada's many small- and medium-sized magazines in the loop on this rapidly emerging field.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here here.

3:10 pm  
Anonymous Joe Clark said...

And this “working group,” which is purely hypothetical anyway, would “draw up specs” requiring “digital magazines” to have “pages” you “flip,” use untagged PDF or a secret format, use DRM, and provide no accessibility for users with disabilities, including blind people using screen readers. And it’ll all be outsourced to the Americans, ideally with OMDC or other government funding.

Which part did I get wrong?

12:41 am  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

To Joe Clark: Well, basically you got ALL of it wrong. There is no reference in the post to secret formats or DRM providing no accessibility or outsourcing it to the Americans. All of these things would be antithetical to the idea of a collaborative approach. The post specifically referred to open source and easily managed and affordable software. I don't know how it could be more clear.

10:43 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

D.B. Scott...does D.B. stand for Douche Bag? Why are you such a jerk to people. Joe made a comment and you try to make him look like an idiot.

Post this comment...please!

2:39 pm  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

I'm afraid this kind of abuse and name calling is exactly why this blog is moderated. But I wouldn't want you to be able to say I didn't post your extraordinary response.

2:45 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am way out here on the West Coast of Olympic Land and DB Scott provides significant insight to the industry. Now where can I find this group of open source folks? - DA-JBPC

1:17 am  
Anonymous Rosalynn said...

I would love to see The New Quarterly, the small lit mag I work for, on an ipad one day. One reason I've hesitated over getting an e-reader is that they don't also accommodate magazines, which I buy in even greater volume than books and don't tend to keep indefinitely (like books). I think if I could download magazine issues in colour, and navigate the issues in a way that's more like browsing -- ie, not being forced to flip page by page, having links to related content, for example, instead of having to return to a table of contents -- I would buy this device immediately.

10:01 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm currently working for a small mag and yes we are planning/developing an iphone app. It's possible! There is so much potential for small mags!

7:15 pm  

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