July 21, 2015 Last Updated 8:49 am

Reporters Without Borders releases replica edition app into the Apple Newsstand

PDF replica of magazine showcasing brilliant photography makes readers constantly turn their devices in order to see the artwork, while making the text all but unreadable

This website rarely talks about new digital editions that are replicas, except to occasionally express a bit of disappointment at a missed opportunity. After all, what is there to say about a PDF replica… except that it is a PDF replica. There is no design to speak of beyond what was created for the print edition, and rarely anything added to make the digital edition worth reading in anything but the original print version.

RWB-iPad-2The new Newsstand app, Reporters sans frontières mag, is one of those apps that is especially disappointing because it features such fantastic photography. The app was released under the Presstalis developer account name, a French distribution company.

Reporters Sans Frontières is a France-based organization that promotes freedom of the press. Three times a year the organization publishes special magazines 100 photos de pour la liberté de la presse (100 Photos for Press Freedom), and distributing those magazines to a wider audience is likely the goal of this new Newsstand app.

The app description states that there are links and “dynamic summaries” in the digital editions, and calls them interactive. That may be true of the newest issue, but the free issue is just a plain jane PDF replica (I could not buy the newest issue thanks Apple’s App Store being buggy today). But what I saw shows why magazines that wish to focus on photography should consider platforms other than those PDF based.

As you can see above, the print magazine was designed to take advantage of two-page spreads, with small amounts of text at the side. On an iPad, especially an iPad mini, the text is far too small to read except when using pinch-to-zoom. As for the photography, the landscape pictures are broken up into two digital pages making them like that game where you see part of something and are supposed to guess what it is you are looking at.

Ther two-page spreads are better in landscape, where the photos can be seen whole, but the text becomes positively microscopic. What one then is forced to do is constantly turn your tablet from portrait to landscape. (If in public the person next to you will think you are driving your tablet.)

What is bad on the iPad is just silly on the iPhone, with the cover squeezed to better fit the iPhone’s screen.

I think that some publisher’s would be better served to wait to decide what they want to present their readers digitally rather than settle on a solution because it might be cheap and easy, or even offered to them free by their publishing partners. Not only are their own reputations on the line when they launch a digital edition, but that of their contributors, as well.

(I want to reinforce a design point: seeing a photography spread over two digital pages would be like an art director purposely choosing to layout a photo with the first half on page 9, then placing the second half on page 10, where the reader would be forced to turn the page to see the second half. They wouldn’t do it, ever. Yet we see it in digital editions all the time.)

  • Bentley Nelson 3 years ago

    It IS POSSIBLE to create incredibly beautiful layouts in PDF for the iPad WHEN one designs for the iPad format. Print publishers must understand that “screens” are entirely different than printed pages and content must be sequenced and designed to match.