First look: bottlefood, the new well-designed wine and food digital magazine from Norway
Designed in landscape, the new digital magazine is, in some ways, a throw back to the early days of tablet publishing, when designers were producing more innovative, native digital magazines than what is often seen today
The early days of digital magazines was a time when the Flash flipbook dominated. The idea was that you would take your print magazine, turn it into a PDF, then convert it into a Flash flipbook which would be read online. The pages were fairly readable, assuming one was reading them on a desktop computer – with two pages side-by side, and that fake page flip sound playing every time you advanced to the next page.
It was thought that readers would enjoy these, but in the end study after study showed that readers were not happy with them. Why? Because the browser reading experience is far different than the print magazine reading experience. Readers online move from media source to media source as they seek information. Their leisure-time reading habits are far different, and more in alignment with magazine publishers – who wants to sit at their desk to read a magazine after hours? (That does not mean that there are not good uses for flipbooks, such as archiving issues, offering an alternative way to access a magazines, etc.)
When the tablet magazine came along there were a couple of design issues that were widely discussed. One involved navigation: should the pages move left to right like a print magazine? or should stories be designed for scrolling? A concept video from Bonnier, released at the end of 2009, suggested that scrolling within articles made the most sense, then swiping to move to the next article. With native digital magazines this ended up being the norm. (See the first chapter of Talking Digital for the history of Bonnier’s early work on digital magazines.)
The other issue involved whether pages should be designed in portrait, like a print magazine, or in landscape, which is the way many readers might end up holding their tablets due to video viewing. Many early digital magazines were designed with both orientations available. In fact, TNM often questioned the lack of a landscape option on some digital magazines. But dual orientation digital magazines became rare, if only because this made the files too large, especially if Adobe DPS was being used.
Then, many of the major publishers began to sour on digital publishing to devices and took the easy way out by producing PDF replicas. This was, and is, the worst of all solutions for digital readers as it does not offer native digital navigation (scrolling within articles), font sizes are too small for easy reading without resorting to pinch-to-zoom, and it is limited to the portrait orientation because the design replicates print.
With the state of digital publishing in such bad shape, one would have to wonder if we have reached a point where there is a sort of standard way to producing digital magazines now, taking all the features readers dislike and putting them into one package for the sake of convenience (for the publisher)?
Those still retaining some enthusiasm for digital magazines would, of course, say No.
Those still thinking about how to produce the best digital reading experience will inevitably choose different solutions, ones that make the reading experience enjoyable and more native to the digital device that will be used to read the magazine.
If this is the case, then we it shouldn’t be surprising to see a publisher decide to launch their digital magazine designed in landscape, and maybe even for reading only on one kind of device, rather than trying to shoehorn their design onto both tablets and smartphones. But is still surprising, pleasantly surprising, such a digital magazine launched.
bottlefood is a new iPad-only digital magazine app from Norway. Designed in landscape, it feels both strangely new, and yet so familiar. This is the kind of digital magazine that was far more common in the days before Apple’s App Store team stopped maintaining the Newsstand.
Let’s hope the app finds an audience because it is a very good digital magazine app. I believe it is using the Mag+ platform, which produced a modestly sized native digital magazine file, 242 MB in size.
The cost of the magazine is kr 39 ($3.99) per issue, and kr 309 ($39.99) per year to subscribe.
The article layouts take advantage of some of the platforms design possibilities, with scrolling text boxes used throughout, and lots of full screen photography and graphics. Art directors with little experience with native digital editions would benefit from browsing through a digital magazine such as bottlefood to see an alternative vision of what a digital magazine can look like, other than some of the hybrid editions that are bing put out by publishers such as Time Inc. or Condé Nast.
Of course, designed this way means having to adapt ads to work in a digital magazine designed in landscape. There is only one ad in the first issue of bottlefood, but as you can see above-right it works fine.
The premiere issue is rather short in length, and on the last page features a typo in the magazine’s URL (oops). But it is a good start and one that will hopefully leading the magazine to explore further what can be accomplished in a tablet magazine.
Some minor things I would suggestion would be to give the reader more obvious clue that they should scroll to read a second or third page. Also, there may be an opportunity to include video inside the app. This doesn’t mean there needs to be large, embedded videos, but one could imagine seeing tiny clips from tastings, from the wineries being featured, or from restaurant kitchens.