Tag Archives | Magazines

Spy Comes to Google Books (Speaking of Which: We Need a Google Magazines)

In a shocking instance of dereliction of duty, I’ve failed until now to mention the best tech-related news of 2011 (so far): Last week, Google added Spy magazine–“The New York Monthly”–to the ever-growing collection of magazines available for free in Google Books. (According to Spy co-founder Kurt Andersen, half the issues are up now and the rest are on their way.)

When Spy debuted in 1986, its quirky, snarky, endlessly inventive sensibility was unique. It soon influenced just about every other magazine on the planet, and you can still spot traces of its attitude everywhere. In fact, the entire blogosphere has a Spy-like feel, including reams of stuff written by people who have never read the magazine and might not even be aware of its existence.

Spy made an indelible impression on me: In fact, browsing through Google’s archive, I immediately identified the first issue–October 1987–which I ever encountered, and remembered perusing it at my desk during lunch.

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Technologizer, Now in Convenient Wood-Pulp Form

If you pick up the issue of TIME magazine that came out today–it’s cover dated November 1st, with the cover story “How to Restore the American Dream”–you’ll find a name you may know on page 75: mine. Actually, two familiar names, since it’s my byline appearing on Technologizer’s first appearance in print. (The article is an updated version of a TIME.com column I did recently on Internet TV boxes–Apple TV, Roku, Google TV, and the upcoming Boxee Box.)

As much fun as it is to write for the Web, it’s fun for the world of Technologizer to burst off the Internet and into a magazine, too–and I couldn’t ask for a cooler home than TIME. Buy a few copies and tell your friends!


Cover(s) Story

I don’t think that Wired and Scientific American coordinated their issue planning this month–they’re competitors, at least sort of–but the two covers sure make for a cool matched set.

From the magazine rack at my local Lucky supermarket:

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Meet Flipboard, an Extremely Cool "Social Magazine" for the iPad

A new iPad app called Flipboard is launching tonight. It aims to put a fresh new interface on social content by giving it one of the most venerable interfaces of them all: that of a magazine–complete with a cover, sections, and pages full of stories you can flip through.

Flipboard gives you a section of photos and other items your friends have shared on Facebook and one based on your friends’ Twitter activity. You can also choose sections (based on Twitter lists) which pull in articles on topics such as politics, tech, and fashion–or plug in any Twitter account or Twitter list to create a custom section.

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Skiff: Still Another Approach to E-Reading

The long-rumored entry of publishing behemoth Hearst into the e-reader game is now official. And it’s not an e-reader, it’s an e-reader platform–offered by a new standalone company being launched by Hearst. Skiff says it’ll distribute magazines, newspapers, and books in attractively-formatted versions to a variety of e-readers, smartphones, and other devices. It won’t sell a device, but it’s partnering with chip company Marvell and wireless provider Sprint to help other companies make Skiff-enabled gadgets for sale starting next year.

The most interesting part of this news is not that there will be even more readers to choose from in 2010, but that Skiff is paying attention to the presentation of periodicals. Today’s readers, such as the Kindle, work okay for publications that are mostly hundreds of pages of plain text. But the magazines and newspapers I’ve seen in reader form have been really disappointing, since they’ve lost all the artful melding of type, imagery (preferably color imagery), and other elements that continue to make dead trees one of the best technologies ever invented for conveying information. Nor do you get the interactivity and community that the Web versions of the same publications provide (for free, yet).

The magazines I’ve subscribed to on the Kindle feel like a mashup of aspects of the Web and print–but it’s the worst aspects. The best ones are all left out. I wrote about this in a recent guest post for Folio, and while the Skiff site mostly offers tantalizing vision rather than specifics, I’m encouraged to see that the company’s tackling the problem, at least. Even though I think time is running out for companies to launch new devices and services dedicated to e-reading, unless they’re compatible with absolutely everything else that’s out there.


Kind Words From Kiplinger’s

Kiplinger's Personal FinanceGood grief! Kiplinger’s Personal Finance has published its Best of Everything 2009 feature, which provides picks for everything from mutual funds to cars to colleges to travel deals. It’s also got a category for “Best Tech Gadget Guru,” and Kiplinger’s choice in that category is…me!

Whether he’s discussing Microsoft’s mobile-phone software or praising a cool netbook,HARRY MCCRACKEN doesn’t mince words. His Technologizer site (www.technologizer.com) is a fast and furious way to keep up on the latest tech trends. His blog has quickly become one of the most influential sites for tech news and opinion.

I’m flattered–many thanks to the good folks at Kiplinger’s for such a nice honor.


Political Caricature? There’s No App For That

John McCainI long ago gave up on trying to cover every weird rejection of an application intended for Apple’s iPhone App Store, but this one merits quick mention. Tom Richmond, the excellent caricaturist whose work appears in MAD these days, has blogged about an app he co-created. It’s a guide to senators and members of congress that lets you look up any elected official by GPS or Zip code and get some basic information about him or her, including contact info. Useful, no?

Well, it also includes a depiction of each public servant as a bobblehead doll, using Richmond’s caricatures, and you can bobble their heads by nudging them with your finger. Pretty clever, and no more offensive than any other well-done example of political cartooning. But it apparently ran afoul of an App Store regulation that forbids apps which “Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.”

The rejection doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. Actually, we already knew that Apple doesn’t like apps that have fun at the expense of public figures: an app called Someecards with snarky, topical e-cards only got accepted after its creators edited out cards that Apple didn’t like like. The rejection of Richmond’s app, Bobble Rep, seems to suggest that even gentle humor of the sort that this nation has enjoyed for, oh, its entire existence is beyond the pale.

As TechCrunch’s MG Siegler reported, Google’s Android folks took note of Someecards’ woes, reached out, and invited the company behind it to create an uncensored Android edition. Maybe Bobble Rep will go Android, too. But does anyone out there want to argue that Apple shouldn’t take a deep breath and permit these apps onto the App Store? Isn’t political humor a positively American activity?

I mean, how is Bobble Rep different from the item below, which the iTunes Store cheerfully offers–except that it’s an iPhone app, not a Will Ferrell movie?

You're Welcome


Google Magazines: Now Actually Findable!

Google Books LogoI keep writing about the wonders of Google Books’ archive of scanned magazines–most notably, the utter delight that is the complete LIFE. Every time I do, I pause to wonder why it’s practically impossible to find a magazine unless you know it’s there. Problem solved, mostly: Google Books now has a page with thumbnail images of all the magazines to be found there.

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Magazines: Still Ripe for Digital Reimagining

MagazinesWe don’t even know for sure whether Apple will ever release a tablet–although there’s lots of compelling evidence that it will–and already there’s a lively debate about whether the company is interested in using said tablet to do to printed reading materials what iTunes has done for music.

Until recently, the smart money seemed to be on Apple staying out of the e-reader fray–cue references to Steve Jobs saying that nobody reads anymore. But over at Gizmodo, Brian Lam is reporting that Apple has been in talks with publishers of textbooks, newspapers (the New York Times, specifically), and magazines–presumably as it gets ready to announce its tablet. Maybe the company is interested in catering to those of us who do read after all.

I hope so–and as a former magazine guy, I’m most interested to see what Apple might do with the medium I left behind but for which I’ll never lose my affinity. For all the things that are right with Amazon.com’s Kindle e-book reader, its treatment of magazines is pretty horrible. It may have signed deals to offer thirty-six well-known titles, but every Kindle magazine I’ve seen has been stripped of most of its formatting, graphics, and…life. There’s no particular benefit to Kindle magazines except for saving some trees and space on your coffee table, especially when far more dynamic, engaging, interesting versions of most of the same content is available for free on the Web.

And ultimately, I don’t think largely static downloadable magazines such as those offered by Amazon (as well as PDF-like print replicas such as Zinio versions) are going to revolutionize anything. We don’t need new formats for magazines that compete with the Web–we need to use Web technologies to create more compelling digital versions of traditionally pulp-based publications. An electronic version of, say, the New Yorker shouldn’t be an entirely different beast from NewYorker.com. It should be a variant that can be pushed to a device (be it from Amazon or Apple) and read even when you’re offline, with slicker type, graphics, and overall presentation than the Web currently permits. And what the heck–it should retain the wonderfully browsable, print-oriented concepts of a cover, a table, of contents, and a sequence of pages from beginning to end. (In this case, it should also involve cartoons interspersed throughout, which you can choose to read first.)

Like Web pages, these magazines should work on multiple devices from different manufacturers–if Newsweek is available in slightly different, incompatible variants for the Kindle and Apple’s tablet, it’s just going to drive everybody crazy.

Oh, and whoever solves this problem needs to figure out issues of screen orientation–one of the big gotchas with Zinio magazines is that they’re portrait-oriented publications in the mostly landscape-oriented world of computer displays.

I don’t know if Brian’s story is right on the money–and if it is, I have no idea what Apple has in mind. But I do know that even though I don’t currently subscribe to any digital magazines, I’d happily plunk down my money for ones that got the format right. So far, nothing’s come close. I’m a happy optimist, so I’m assuming this will get solved relatively soon–if not by Apple, by somebody.