First look: Three new photo tablet magazine apps launch into the Apple Newsstand

Absolute Photo, Abyss and Photo+ reveal three different visions of what the tablet platform can deliver

Quite a number of months ago I was asked if I was considering launching my own photography magazine. I remember thinking about it for a minute before stating that I thought that of all the categories of publications out there, photography was the one area where it seemed that readers had a good choice of options already. At the time I was thinking of the excellent British Journal of Photography digital edition, and Future’s Photography Week. Since that time a number of new titles have appeared, including FLTR, an iPhone photography magazine just released by Apptitude Media, the same publisher of the BJP (see post on that app here).

Absolute-iPad-coverThat has not stopped publishers from continuing to release new photography titles – some with print counterparts, some strictly digital.

Absolute Photo from Bright Publishing Ltd is a “fully interactive iPad magazine aimed at photographers from the keen enthusiast level upwards,” its app description states. The publisher already has five other photography magazines inside the Newsstand, at least one other of which is interactive (the others are replicas). The company seems to be quickly shifting from using outside vendors such as PixelMags, to producing their digital editions in-house.

“Just over 23 years ago, I wrote my first article for a photography magazine,” writes Roger Payne, editorial director of the new photography digital magazine. “It was created on an Apple Mac Classic computer that had an integral nine-inch black & while CRT display, 1 MB of memory, a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive (there was no hard drive) and had just the company I was working for £1000…”

His point, of course, is that things have changed a bit – including with photography.

“You’ve downloaded the UK’s first monthly photography magazine create specifically for the iPad,” Payne continues later. “Absolute Photo does not appear in print form, which means we can concentrate on making this title a fully immersive tablet experience, free from the restrictions imposed by a paper-based product.”

It’s quite a claim, that I suppose is technically accurate as Future’s Photography Week is a weekly, not a monthly, and appears for both the iPad and iPhone. But the point is that this is a native tablet edition, not a replica. In fact, the app description states it, as well: the new digital title “makes the most of its functionality to deliver an immersive reader experience that other magazine replica titles simply can’t match.”

That isn’t preventing other publishers from going the replica route with its photography titles. IPC Media’s Amateur Photographer Magazine International, for instance, is a replica.

So, too, is Photo+, a brand new Newsstand app from South Korean publisher Yowool Media. But compared to native tablet editions, these replicas simply do not exploit the tablet’s ability to display photography at its best. One might think that at the very least the editors would link the existing photography in its PDF form to photo galleries, but the lure of the replica is the ease of conversion, which is why so few publishers bother to enhance their replica editions, despite the urging of the replica makers to do so.

Abyss-iPad-coverWhile Bright Publishing’s take on the tablet magazine goes native, it is still very much in the tradition of print publishing. Other digital publishers wish to go in a more radical direction. The recent releases that use the Origami Engine, for instance, are all more radical in their vision.

Abyss from Seonjeong Lee is designed in landscape (like Absolute Photo) but is far less text heavy. It also sees the world of photography from the perspective of animation, and so the entire experience is quite different.

Of course, coming from South Korea, the magazine a mix of English and Korean, so keeping the text to a minimum might be strictly an editorial decision. Also, the goal here is less commercial and more about art. The digital magazine is free of charge to access, for instance – while Bright Publishing is charging quite a high rate for its new title ($4.99 in the U.S. App Store – and no I didn’t get a promo code, so you know they have at least one sale today).

Abyss is very well done and combined with the native tablet editions being produced by commercial publishers one has a wealthy of options as to what to read in this category. My only concern is that the Newsstand is so crowded, with self-published, poorly designed digital-only titles, as well as replica editions of print magazine. Is the market saturated with titles? Can a new digital-only title make it past its first few issues?

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