Posts Tagged ‘magazine’


The decade in magazine covers

If print news media is on the way out, then magazines will be the ones to turn out the lights. Their longer features make for more timeless content and in-depth analysis than daily, disposable newspapers can offer. Sudden events are often chronicled in newspapers, as I witnessed just this week when I visited the Leominster News Agency newsstand and found shelves upon shelves of yellowed papers from the day after Election Day 2008. But whereas newspapers will tell you what happened, magazines will tell you what it means.

The year 2010 marks the beginning of a new decade (though not the new decade, depending on who you ask), making it an appropriate time to look back at what one magazine called "The Decade from Hell". The Magazine Publishers of America have chosen their own medium to represent the last ten years, arranging covers from 44 different publications into the following montage:



The chronological gap between events you recognize may lead you to wonder, "What about all the intervening years?" They're all there, but at just two minutes in length, the video moves them along pretty quickly.

For a more studied look at a longer period of periodicals, the American Society of Magazine Editors also has a gallery of the 40 greatest magazine covers, 1965–2005.


Clumsy e-readers and elegant newspapers

The Barnes & Noble nook has recently drawn attention to the e-book market, but let's not forget the falling circulation of newspapers and magazines. They too are trying to adopt to this digital age, yet their attempts to persuade me of their savviness fall flat.

Time Inc, Condé Nast, Meredith, Hearst, and News Corp. have collaborated to create a shared vision for digital editions of their print publications. Here's a demo of their model of the future:



Does anyone else find this example unappealing? Maybe it's the use of a CGI hand instead of an actual, physical user demonstration, but the interface for these digital magazines strikes me as cumbersome and loaded more with bells and whistles than with practical features — as though the device were aimed at luring print luddites, not existing IT connoisseurs. Nothing at the homepage of the SI Tablet, as this particular model is apparently called, dissuades me from that opinion.

The benefits of such a transition may be overrated. Some print newspapers seem to be weathering both this economy and media revolution decently, with below-average losses in circulation, revenue, and staff. It's encouraging news, as hardcopy still has much to offer. In stark contrast to the above stilted proof-of-concept is this functional representation of existing technology:

Some futurists predict that the last print newspaper will be circulated in 2050, after which all written communication will occur digitally. I hope the day is longer off than that, as a healthy democracy will long have room and need for print journalism.


Why would the Atlantic publish on the Kindle?

In a publishing discussion forum I participate in, a friend recently posted her concerns over a recent announcement regarding exclusive content for the Amazon Kindle:

An article in today's New York Times announced that the Atlantic will sell some short stories exclusively on Kindle… This concept bothers me for a couple of reasons. First, the Kindle seems to be the most restrictive of the e-readers… Second, selling a short story exclusively to the Kindle is essentially creating a work that only a privileged few can ever read.

She's right that the Kindle is more restrictive than other readers, but not by much. The only advantage Sony's e-reader has over it in format compatibility is in its support of ePub files, for example. Wikipedia has a handy chart that compares all the hardware's compatibilities.

As for why anyone would choose to make their content available on only the Kindle, check out this table of who owns the e-book market: a quarter of all e-book readers are Amazon Kindles. That's twenty-five times greater than the Sony eBook Reader, and many more times still than the unproven nook. If the Atlantic wants maximum exposure for their content, it makes sense to go with the market leader. (And it's possible Amazon offered them some strong incentives to provide this exclusive content — something e-publishing fledgling B&N couldn't afford while investing in launching their own product.)

However, though there's something to be said for getting in on the ground floor, I think it's too early to be pledging allegiances just yet. It was just last year that early adopters of the HD-DVD format found themselves orphaned in the face of Blu Ray's victory, as this comic strip recently reminded me, for example. How many of today's e-readers will soon be similarly unsupported? The Atlantic may see the potential in taking a risk with a particular product, but I'm more than happy to wait this one out, and then through my weight behind a sure thing.

If e-books were a technology that needed my support to survive — so many people skipped the Sega Dreamcast in favor of its eventual successor that there was never the sales to warrant a successor — then I would be less hesitant. But given the nook's overwhelming presales, I don't think electronic publishing's pioneers will suffer for my economical patience.