April 5, 2010 Last Updated 7:45 pm

Zinio’s iPad app: the easiest way to access magazines on the iPad; app will need updating, but that’s the norm

Only a few magazine publishers were able to launch their own iPad apps in time for launch day on Saturday. So, for most iPad owners, the best way to access magazine content was through the free Zinio app.
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The Zinio magazine stand: the best way to access magazines on the iPad.  →

Zinio wisely included six magazines with their first iPad — hoping to hook readers and future buyers.

Let me start by saying that Zinio’s app will need to be updated at some point (darn, there goes my chance to get this story included on their site!). The app crashed once on me, though that could have been caused by the iPad’s rather low 256 megs of memory — a shockingly low amount of RAM for a laptop, but probably sufficient for this tablet.
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VIVmag’s navigation page.

Scrolling was a bit sticky, as well. But Zinio, I am sure, was like most developers in that they had to create their app without an actual iPad to work with. Because of this, there are some things they will want to refine, and some UI things they will want to work out. This will be the norm, and in no way should be looked at as a deficiency.

Since VIVmag made such a commotion because of the videos posted by Alexx Henry, let’s look at how it all turned out. (VIVmag is a digital only magazine that can only be found on Zinio.)

First off, these magazines are not interactive magazines from a programming perspective. That is, this is not complex programing like you would find in either an iPad game or in some of the concept videos that have been posted. (You can find a number of iPad demo videos on the TNM YouTube Channel.) Instead, the VIVmag does a fantastic job of embedding QuickTime videos into their issue — the best job I’ve seen so far.
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VIVmad ads for Kia and Wakaya Club & Sap have embedded video

Almost all the ads found in this issue have embedded video, a testament to their ad staff for making sure their clients took advantage of this.

VIVMag also does a good job of using video and pictures throughout the issue. Layouts are mostly spread, read in landscape mode, but often link to features that are in portrait mode, where the reader scrolls down to continue to read. This is inline with the thinking found in the Bonnier concept video. It was BERG’s Jack Schulze’s thought that the reading experience on the iPad would be like the web where reading requires scrolling, rather than flipping of pages. (see video here).  The VIVmag issue on Zinio, therefore, involves both flipping and scrolling.
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The layout for the feature seen in Alexx Henry’s videos.

Feature layouts contain a red “ViVify” button that is a link to the embedded content, mostly video. This is a good solution that is available in any flip book, so there is nothing really new here, just implementation for the iPad. But it should be said that most publishers don’t go to this much trouble for their flip books — they say they will do this, but ultimately don’t push their editors and sale staffs to bring their flip books to life. Being electronic only, VIVmag sees this, of course, as essential.

Quick aside: If Apple’s iPad has been criticized as being a closed environment, then what about magazines and books on readers? I didn’t hear anyone complaining that the Kindle didn’t allow you to comment on Great Expectations. Face it, there are times when the lack of commenting and social network sharing is simply the norm. Can you comment on a song you here on a CD player? Can you share parts of a movie you are viewing on television? Sometimes devices are simply players, like a radio or iPod. When I buy an issue of Time magazine is there a way to contact the writer built into the magazine? No, I have to write a letter, or pick up my phone.

So, if the iPad, or the Zinio magazine reader, is going to be criticized for being not the interactive device some hoped, well, don’t buy it and wait for something else. But stop whining about what it could have been and get on with deciding whether you want to create products for those who do own one.

Let’s be honest: I do not like flip books — at least flip books on the web. It is not the fault of the flip book vendors. Instead, publishers have used the flip book as either a way to enhance their dreary web sites, or in the desperate hope that readers will migrate to the flip books and then publishers — especially B2B publishers — can cut their print runs while still delivering the same number of issues for their advertisers.

But the tablet offers a second chance for both flip book vendors and publishers who need a way to keep up base rates while cutting print runs. Zinio’s flip books look pretty darn good on the iPad. And while VIVmag’s content was not my cup of tea, I certainly will be exploring the other five magazine’s Zinio has included in their initial iPad app.

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