With the arrival of the iPad, the Minority Report moment for magazines is finally here
When it comes to digital publishing, I’ve never been very comfortable with all that simulation of the physical reading experience: graphical page-turning ticks, even strange experiments with scratch-and-sniff e-books. It’s not a printed page. It’s an electronic device. Get over it.
It also shows a bewildering lack of imagination. Why slavishly copy the analogue reading model from print products when a much richer multimedia experience is possible? Is it because we don’t want to lose a perceived emotional connection with printed books? If so, I suspect that is much more of an issue for publishing staff who put “because I just love books” in their application letters than for today’s consumers who spend so much time on laptops and iPhones.
That’s not to say that user experience isn’t important – it is. User interface design is more important than ever. It’s just the metaphors that are wrong. In print, we open, turn and fold. In digital, we point, tap and scroll. We’re used to this now. Really. And it is still possible to create an emotional connection to a book or a magazine that exists in digital rather than printed form.
With the iPad just around the corner, one design company has come up with a highly intuitive conceptual model for how magazines might work on this and other devices.
Bonnier and BERG’s vision is particularly far-sighted, considering this video was released at least a month before the iPad was announced. But they’re not alone. WIRED Magazine is, unsurprisingly, at the forefront of putting digital magazine technology into practice.
Many have seen online magazines and newspapers as a threat – notably Rupert Murdoch, who has curiously named his paywall plans Project Alesia this week.
But what if you could create content and a user experience so compelling that people would willingly pay for it? We’re already seeing signs of this with iPhone apps. The iPad could take things a stage further.
Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief of WIRED Magazine, says: “This is what we’ve been waiting for for 15 years. We’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use all these visual tools at our disposal, to tell these stories in a way that is efficient that is multidimensional. But we also think it’s an opportunity to reset the economics: for the first time people may value this experience so much that they’ll pay for it.”
I talked about the Minority Report moment on this blog back in 2007. I also said magazines would get there before books. With the iPad, I’d say that moment is pretty much here. And the magazine will be WIRED – coming to an iPad near you this summer.