June 6, 2014 Last Updated 1:30 pm

Digital editions for magazines covering the book publishing industry offer a conservative take on digital publishing

Book publishing industry magazines offer only replica editions inside the Newsstand and App Store, while a new digital-only magazine cover eBooks suffers from some poor design choices

While preparing next week’s edition of Books on Monday – and it will be a good one – I browsed the Apple Newsstand to see what might be new in one its more moderately used categories: Literary Magazines & Journals.

The category can sometimes look a bit odd as the occasional title gets misplaced into it. For instance, why is Golf Tips Magazine here?

The category is one of the few that contain no newspaper apps, as you’d probably expect, and the icons of the magazines found inside it are sometimes oddly shaped for reasons that are hard to fathom.

Everythingebooks-iPadAnother thing that probably isn’t a surprise is that some of the magazines have chased Books as their secondary category – the one a publisher chooses outside the Newsstand. But the chose of Books as the App Store category highlights the dilemma facing many publishers concerning digital books: do you create an eBook that will be found inside the iBooks Store, or a book app found under Books in the App Store?

One thing that is becoming more and more apparent is that the book publishing industry is far behind their magazine cousins when it comes to producing interesting digital products. Most are boring conversions of the print titles, with only the occasional exciting interactive remained product being published. A good example would The World Atlas of Wine – 7th Edition, which won an award the ear for Best Enhanced Illustrated eBook. I hate that word enhanced because it really downplays what was done of Octopus Publishing Group which actually produced the book (and not its original print publisher).

The two trade journals for the US industry, Publishers Weekly and Book Business, both have replica editions apps, one of which hasn’t been updated in years. The UK trade journal, The Bookseller, is also a replica edition.

(A search for one of the magazines pulled up this app, another example of Apple’s app review team letting in any old garbage today.)

Worse, Digital Book World’s name was allowed to be used for a third party app for the title’s conference and expo that was held in 2012. That name is dead now in the App Store, a lesson to be learned by magazine publishers who don’t give much thought the names they put on their apps.

A newly released book publishing magazine app was released by Paradise Publishers of Carson City, Nevada called Everything Ebooks.

The Newsstand app uses the MagCast publishing platform which uses PDFs. PDFs are, of course, the way many replica editions are made, where the page is simply reproduced on the iPad, even though the original print specs don’t match those of the tablet, resulting in text that is often hard to read or requiring pinch-to-zoom to make the text readable.

With a digital only magazine which uses a PDF solution the designer can start with the tablet’s display specs and design their publication so that it is easily read.

Unfortunately, Everything Ebooks looks like it was designed by a print designer because the fonts are far too small, and every page contains a page number and issue name along the button, something one sees in print but very rarely in native digital editions. (It is important to keep in mind, too, that reader may be using an iPad mini to read their digital magazines, which is why it is a good idea to have both sized tablets around for testing your digital editions.)

The good news about both eBooks and digital magazines is that there are plenty of examples of brilliant and very interesting work being done – much of it by new publishing professionals who have embraced digital and are moving ahead at a relentless, hoping their efforts won’t be undermined by the big digital newsstand and bookstore owners. Next week’s Books on Monday will talk about a couple of these new companies, so stay tuned.

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