Tag Archives: future

Magazines: Paper vs Digital – Fight!

BRMsPhil:  On a whim last week, I bought the electronic copy of the magazine I write for. The paper copy would eventually appear in the post but the digital version comes out a few days before this and I was curious to know how some of the articles I’d written appeared on the page. There was also a bit of extra content to be seen electronically and I was really interested in comparing the two versions.

Delivered via the PocketMags website, downloading the digital version takes around a minute over broadband and WiFi. Cost is £2.99 compared to £3.75 for print. I’ve loaded my copy on to an Asus 7 inch tablet computer although I understand I can log on to the site and see the issues I’ve bought on any device. The copy seems sit on the tablet as I was still able to read it when disconnected from WiFi.

The pages appear exactly the same as they do on paper. Swiping left and right moves you through the issue. Touching the bottom of the screen shows a ribbon of thumbnails for faster racing around. Pinching the page zooms in in the same way as it does on all other Apps.

Enhanced content includes a couple of videos, photo galleries and captions that are called up by pressing an “i” button on the image. Not sure about the later one but I suppose it leaves the pictures clearer of text.

So, am I convinced to go digital?

No.

One of the problems is that when looking at magazines, size matters. My tablet is about 2/3rd the size of the A4 printed page. Reading the mag involves squinting or zooming on the page. Maybe if I was using a 10 inch iPad or even a proper computer screen, this wouldn’t be a problem. On the other hand, the iPad is heavy to hold for long periods and the PC screen means sitting at a desk.

Discussing this in the office, we also feel that readers engage with the content differently on-screen. They treat it like a web page and scan the words rather than reading them. It’s a less immersive experience perhaps, or just this is how people have learned to deal with screen based information. Plenty of useability studies tell us this is how web pages are consumed, hence the instruction to include plenty of keywords in text to catch the reader’s eye. You might think that when reading a publication, readers might behave differently but this appears not to be the case. I suspect this might be related to the size issue. If reading takes effort, they you’ll skim the content.

Of course, if you don’t want to read but just look at pictures then the tablet is good. Zooming in to the detail is easy. OK, in print the pics are bigger and I suppose in the analogue world you can use a magnifying glass but that’s not convenient and anyway, eventually you start seeing how the picture is printed and not the pic itself. Our photographer reckons the reproduction on the page is darker than the electronic version although this is a reproduction issue and not a deliberate choice, nor is it necessarily a bad thing as some readers comment they prefer darker photos.

Another thought is that a lot of the magazine involves “how to” articles with step-by-step information for readers to follow. That’s the bit I write and I’m not convinced that reader want to take a pricy tablet near some of the plaster, paint and glues I use in the articles. Paper magazines are far more resilient in this respect. At least if you glue the pages together , you can buy another copy from Smiths, “I dropped it in some plaster and not it’s stopped working.” isn’t likely to garner you much sympathy in your local electronics shop.

All of this is moot. While the digital edition sells well, the paper one sells better. All expectations are that this will be the case for over a decade so the presses will continue to roll. Mind you, predicting the future is difficult…

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Happy Birthday WWW

"25"Phil: Yesterday was the World Wide Web’s 25th birthday.

Doesn’t time fly when you are having fun?

I remember working for the ministry of cows and cobbling together a laptop PC, fax modem and Compuserve CD to get on-line for the first time. I logged on in glorious black and white (the best the laptop could do) and then wondered, what do I do next?

A colleague with an X-File obsession suggested we look to see what the was on her favourite TV show and since she ruled the typing pool with a rod of iron and I needed to get export certificates through there in less than a month, I had a quick search. Downloading the pages took ages and when we saved them to a floppy disk and transferred them to a colour PC, the results were a bit rubbish, but it didn’t matter. This was the future.

A few months later, having been made redundant, I spent hours at the local library using their single web-connected computer to surf. Inspiration was provided by a Yellow Pages of web sites. Literally a printed book listing sites under different categories. Even then it was a fat publication.

Two years later, it was suggested I take over the company website because I was publishing a magazine so I knew about pictures and things. A couple of days later I had learned enough HTML from a book to finish the launch of our commercial arm’s website. Nerdy types will shrink in horror at the way we used tables and even frames to lay out content, some of which was animated GIFs, something I still thin are pretty neat even if I know them to be considered as dated as drop shadow (If you have no idea what I’m on about here, don’t worry).

The web has made a huge difference to authors. No longer do I submit articles on paper, floppy disk or CD. Everything flies around using electronic magic. On the other hand, if I wanted to waste time on the computer, I played Solitaire until I (quickly) got bored. Now there is an infinite supply of procrastination accessories.

More importantly, it has made the e-Book possible. Can you imagine this taking off if it weren’t possible to download the words? Would anyone want to carry the Kindle to the book store to pick up the latest novel?

Of course, most importantly, without the WWW, the great writing team of Nolanparker would never have met up in the first place. I wouldn’t have been employed to look after the website at a quango where I met my friend. Who knows where or what we’d have ended up doing? You wouldn’t be reading this, but then without the web, there would be no websites or WordPress either.

Yes, Tim Berners-Lee made the world a different, and I think better place. Here’s to the next quarter century.

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Why can’t I click on the page?

From: Clients from Hell.net

Client: I love the flyer you sent! It’s clicky!
Me: Great! So we’re done now?
Client: No. When I print out the flyer, the links aren’t clicky. Can you make them clicky?
Me: I don’t understand.
Client: I want to be able to go to our website … when … um, when I …
Me: You do know that a piece of paper can’t be interactive, right?

WGTPhil: I read (on-line) the posting above at the same time as I was reading (on-paper) “Who Goes There – Travels through strangest Britain in search of the Doctor” by Nick Griffiths, and it struck a chord.

I enjoy travel books. Sometimes they make me want to go and see the places described. Mostly my traveling is vicarious but none the worse for that. I also love Dr Who. Put the two together and we should have a winner – right?

Wrong.

Even once you get past the stream of consciousness writing style (it calms down after the first few chapters) and the lack of capital letters in the title (Grrrr) there is a fundamental problem with the book. The author keeps referring readers to his website so they can see photos of the location he visits.  That’s lovely but I was reading on a train and so constantly being pointed at a web page was a reminder that I was missing out on a good chunk of the fun to be had from Griffiths travels.

To compound matters, he keeps referring to Who episodes that I don’t remember. I mean, I love classic Who, but I don’t have an encyclopedic memory of a TV show I watched when I was 5 or even one from before I was born. I’m nerdy, but not that nerdy. Thus, I often have no idea what the location being visited looks like ‘cos I’ve not seen it on telly or on the web.

Frustrating. Very.

But, Candice and I were chatting about this over tea and squash earlier in the week, more and more people are reading on eBooks. Travel on the tube in that there London and you’ll hardly see the traditional paperback. It’s all iPads and Kindles now.

These are perfect for a book like this. If I want to see the picture, I can click on a link and assuming I’m not in a signal-free tunnel, up the photo will pop. If licensing were possible, even a clip from the show could be included. All this makes writing a rather more involved job than traditional, but it creates a very different type of book/website hybrid that could be very exciting.

None of this works (for me) on paper but it does beg a question. If the eBook/website hybrid is the way things are going, has this book about a time traveller fallen back through a wormhole from a few years in the future?

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