The iPad Magazine Reading Experience

It's been nearly a week since the Apple iPad entered my our lives (Emily is loving it for future kitchen recipe duty) and overall it's proven to be the sort of device, although a luxury, easily and quickly assumes the role of a necessity. I was specifically excited about the idea of transitioning to subscribing/reading magazines on the iPad, with a handful of mags ready to download or subscribe at launch whetting the appetite. I've tested a few titles thus far and the jury is still out that magazines are offering anything worth noting quite yet.

On the more notable end, Popular Science engineered their special iPad-specific issues, Popular Science+, to showcase what reading on a tablet could offer beyond a print magazine or reading online. And as much as we liked some of the navigation experiments of the $4.99 app, it didn't really lend much to our overall impression, and more specifically, our ability to reach relevant information. Reaching relevant copy pertaining to an article is a combination of swipes and taps, leading to the feeling you're being made to jump through hoops and circles to get to information that once just required a page turn. It's all very eye-captivating, but the effect's charms wore thin very quickly, and we feel like much of the early hoopla for the Popular Science+ app is unwarranted when focusing upon the reader's ability to actually...well...read.

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This instructions are fairly basic, but even with basic navigation, the digital issues are prone to crashing or prematurely stopping when navigating through the scroll feature.

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Of course, being a long time Dwell magazine subscriber, the premise of one of our favourite shelter titles making its way over to the iPad was too tempting an offer to skip, so we immediately subscribed to a full year of the iPad issues for $19.99 with the Dwell iPad app. Ten issues of modern interiors inhabited by unhappy hipsters, available as they're released onto newsstands in glorious and vibrant digital screen enhanced colour...what's there not to like? How about buggy performance, with regular stuttering while swiping across pages (slowly or fast, it doesn't matter), and crashes galore in just 10 minutes of use. Developer Pixelmags and Dwell are going to have to improve this digital publication experience or their foray into the tablet market will be a short lived one. For now, the experience is basically one of viewing scanned pages of magazines with little to offer beyond one could get from their more portable paper printer equivalents. We're hoping to see improvements as our year subscription progresses. Really...we just paid $20!

What's obvious after a week of use is the iPad offers a whole of potential as the premier digital magazine reader, with a vibrant and high resolution screen which elicits "oohs" and "ahhs' every time we turn it on. Our experience with the Marvel and Comixology Comics apps have been extremely satisfying, mostly because the content is offered with just enough extra features to feel new, while not overloading the comics with so many features the experience feels overwhelming.

This middle ground has yet to be reached so far from magazines (we most look forward to Wired's iPad magazine app), so hold onto your dollars for now and enjoy a Kindle or Apple iBooks purchase instead while the magazine publishers get their format sorted out for the next generation. As it stands, iPad magazines feel like the early days of CD-ROM games or first Flash-heavy websites (ironic, since Flash is now a no-go on this device). Content is king, but on the iPad, content has yet to take up the throne.