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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Rant: digital versions of magazines - absolutely awful

Is it just me, or is anyone else really ticked off with various of the more useful mobile & wireless publications moving to useless, hideous digital publishing platforms? Things like Olive, Zmag and who knows what else?** Nasty, naff page-turning animations that waste time even more effectively than a PR company's website splash screen? Pointless & counterintuitive navigation and UI elements that seem to be designed purely to be different, or maybe just to avoid Adobe's or Microsoft's patents.

What's the point? If you don't want to spend the money on printing & distributing dead trees, just send me a link to a PDF so I can download it, and then print it out myself if I want to read it on the Tube.

In fact, the only good thing is that where they do have the option to download PDFs or print, you can select only the pages you want, avoiding the adverts.

I'm sure there's all sorts of cleverness that appeals to the people who produce magazines... it's just unfortunate that they're the ones who benefit, not the users.

**with an unerring sense of timing, I've just got a piece of marketing spam from another culprit, Zinio. Apparently it's solicited because I once read an online magazine that was using its pointless software. "You are receiving this email at XXXXX ATdisruptive-analysis.com, because you have received an offer for a digital version of MIT's Technology Review in the past" It graciously offers me the opportunity to 'unsubscribe'. And risk more spam? Wonderful. Another great example of why the whole concept stinks.


Hywel said...

I agree with your comments, but I have a view why things are the way they are. For example, I have been reading Nature online for some time - it's free to our lab, and saves me walking down to the library at work (I'm so lazy). What would be so nice would be to have just the PDF available, rather than the hamstrung interface the NewsStand reader gives you - only one level of zoom, poor search, non-standard button types etc. etc. I think for some of these publications though that having this restricted interface is deliberate, as it makes if more inconvenient to copy (and then perhaps duplicate) large chunks of the content, rather than just the small 'fair-use' copying allowed by copyright law, e.g. a single-page article. This issue will still be true when we have fully-digital subscription magazines even if they're entirely funded by advertising - the publishers will want to get a fair return from each reader, and the advertisers will want to know their adverts are being read. So, just like restrictive iPod and WMP software, I think difficult online magazines will be the case for a while.

Anonymous said...

I share your frustration. My subscriptions to TMC mags have magically shifted to digital, which I almost never read for the reasons you mention, and because I prefer not to read at my computer - I have this odd habit of reading magazines on a couch, or in bed, on an airplane, etc. to make use of downtime AWAY from my computer.

That said, the only online magazine I actually enjoy is Red Herring - the reader is halfway decent and the content digestable.