August 11, 2014 Last Updated 1:44 pm

New digital-only indy food and wine magazines enter the Apple Newsstand, such as it is

New digital-only titles are launched at a time when even Apple has lost interest in its own digital newsstand

If Talking New Media were a website that covered the print publishing industry one could understand that the site might be a bit of a downer, what with titles being shuttered, distributors going out of business and media companies frantic to jettison their print publishing divisions from their companies so that earnings will not be dragged down.

screen480x480-1But TNM covers digital publishing and these are dark days for sure. Last week came word that one of the industry’s best design firms would be closed so that its owner could concentrate on corporate publishing, and several digital publishing platforms told me that they would, in the future, follow this trend by deemphasizing magazine publishing.

It was only a few months more than four years ago that the tablet publishing era was born, now its death looks very near.

Apple’s own App Store team seem not to care. Right the Newsstand is promoting the “Cookbooks” category (of course, they mean ‘Cooking’ as there are no ‘books’ in the category). The more you think Apple couldn’t be more messed up the more they try and prove that things could get even worse.

Into this mess, though, self- and small-publishers continue to launch new digital magazines. In some cases, though, their new apps are good examples of the problems faced by readers of digital editions, and the lack of oversight of the Newsstand by Apple.

Brix Magazine published by William Baughman. The app description looks good, as do the screenshots, which gives one the impression that the digital magazine may feature native tablet layouts.

I will never know because after tapping the “BUY” button and paying for the first issue inside the app, the app never allowed me to download the issue. There is no separate library and store pages and so what one supposes is supposed to happen is that the “BUY” button is to turn into a “DOWNLOAD” button – it doesn’t. Shutting down the app and reopening it does produce a “DOWNLOAD” button, but pressing it only returns you to the purchase sequence. If you try and buy the issue again it will tell you that you have already bought the issue and would you like to get it again. Saying yes simply returns you to the same endless and frustrating cycle again.

It’s on to Apple and securing a refund. But why is this app in the store? Didn’t it go through the app review team?

screen480x480Another new digital magazine, this one that uses the MagLoft platform, is better. The new digital magazine is called Rabbit Food Magazine: Celebrating a Whole Foods, Plant Based Lifestyle and is published by Brad Rudacille.

The platform delivers a digital magazine experience similar to that of TypeEngine or 29th Street Publishing. While I would prefer more complicated, creative layouts, the platform does deliver a workable digital edition – one that is especially good for smartphone reading.

The app also gives the potential reader an introductory letter from the publisher which is used to sell the reader on the contents. This one says “Rabbit Food is your magazine.” Actually, it’s not, but that is beside the point.

We are entering a very critical time in the life of the tablet publishing platform. Many would-be publishers are still learning about the potential of the platform and still considering launching new titles. But at the same time, Apple and many vendors are losing interest in it field and either abandoning it completely or shifting resources. Still, print publishers continue to report their digital editions in their audit reports and, though they see growth slowing, it is still showing growth.

And what are the alternatives? If tomorrow Apple shutdown the Newsstand and said they would accept no new apps would everything shift to online? Would we return to Flash flipbooks? God, I hope not. That was a dead end.

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