Jan 10, 2010

Redesigning Print For The E-Book/Tablet World

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

I'm about a month late to see Bobby's blog about Bonnier R+D's concept of a Digital Magazine, but of course if you know me, you know I've been ridiculously geeky about interactive media and how it's setting itself up to change tons of industries: tv, print, journalism, retail, etc. Of course, multitouch interfaces like these have been my wetdreams for a good many years anyway (I've been trying to come up with some excuse to a concept piece like this for Causecast, but haven't figured out the relevancy).

Most things about this I love: maintaining the good design of the magazine (Popular Science, depicted in the video, can be a bit noizy on paper, but kinda sets itself up for this sort of thing), allowing the reader to choose how they want to read the article, and stupid-easy ways of sharing and annotating. I especially like how the text moves at its own speed, contrary to the background photographs, giving a more 3D feeling.

Two things I felt it missed, though. First was the lack of resizeable text. I don't mean being able to click a "+/-" key to zoom (like web browsers), but a way to really drag and resize the text to your liking. If you'll notice, a long vertical block of text exists on one side of the page that scrolls up and down, but can eventually be hard on the eyes when reading a long story. Getting control to make the text fullscreen, or text-only, would be pretty valuable; Wired magazine, in particular, can get really irritating to read when they print text in silver, and an e-reader that can change that would be really important.

The other point is that even though I respect the magazine layout's porting to a digital form, I feel like it's merely a transition to what digital publishing will really become. Author and Mark Jeffrey pointed out in an episode of Bibliotech that the biggest problems with e-books now is they're hitting the same transition period as television hit: initial television producers didn't know how to work with television, so radio hosts sat blankly in front of the camera. Right now, ebooks are essentially just pages on an electric screen, which is why market adoption has been rocky.

What really comes to mind is when Blaise Aguera y Arcas debuted Microsoft Lab's Photosynth and SeaDragon at TED Talks in 2007. The video below cuts straight to his example of an advertisement concept:

(full video of Photosynth demonstration)

When you're no longer limited by the resolution of a printer, size of paper, or people's visual capability, there's little point to continue designing as print has designed for hundreds of years. What's to stop print publishing from eventually being a combination of Prezi and Google Wave? I'm completely certain it'll come to that, but it's just a matter of the mass public being able to get their mind around such concepts: it took 3 years to get people's head around Twitter for crying out loud, and the majority of the media industry still doesn't know how to use it.

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