I know it’s early yet in the discussion of how print media will adapt for tablet platforms like Apple’s iPad. But one thing I hope will eventually develop for magazines in particular is a movement away from the reliance on a simulacrum of the printed page.
Almost every iPhone app I have that involves prolonged reading of text asks me to flip a “page” with my finger to move on. It’s not the motion that I object to, but rather the notion that my reading on this new platform has to be a simulation of turning paper pages in an actual publication. Do the app developers think so little of us that they imagine we can’t understand any other sort of interface?
No, of course not; and users have easily adapted to the iPhone’s unique set of controls. And now it’s time to start doing some serious reimagining of what print content will look like on a larger touch-enabled platform like the iPad. Magazines, with their emphasis on creative design, can be the leaders in this effort.
We can go beyond just thinking about fitting a paper page’s content onto the screen of the tablet and worrying only about usability. Instead, can we imagine a magazine as something other than ads, departments, columns, a feature well, etc., all pre-ordered for consumption front to back? The manipulable and customizable nature of a magazine on an iPad can go far beyond the print magazine simulacrum.
Maybe the iPad magazine’s table of contents will be like the queue on Hulu that allows viewers to program their own order of video consumption. For fashion magazines, features could be added that allow you to try on models’ clothes, hairstyles and makeup by touching and moving them around atop your own uploaded picture. Ads could be “torn out” with a multi-touch swipe and saved to a portfolio or shopping list (making readers’ responses more measurable at the same time). Recipes, articles and so forth could also be saved and arranged like the photo albums shown in the iPad preview. And I’m sure there are a thousand other ideas even better than those.
I know Conde Nast, Time and others are already working on iPad-specific apps for their magazines. I wonder how they will move beyond the print simulacrum to take full advantage of the tablet. As a magazine fan, I’ll look forward to seeing what they develop, and I hope it’s truly innovative.