Friday, June 30, 2017

Reading on the iPad Part 12: Drop Fast Company's app. They have.

I have another blog, Angry Poetnerd for posts where I have only bad things to say. By rights this posting should go to that blog.

With the May 2017 issue, Fast Company stopped doing any extra work to re-render for the iPad app. Instead the regular printed version was loaded verbatim into the app with no post processing, and no additional work on the app to deal with the new requirements.

  • Small, unreadable font: No ability to enlarge the font was added, so you were stuck with the large form factor magazine page in the small form factor iPad screen. This is a problem for near-sighted readers like myself.
  • Links needed but not supported: No links were included to go to or get back from articles that were continued elsewhere in the issue.
  • No additional navigation aids offered: To get to a continuation or back from it, you use trial and error either with the scroll bar and page flipping.

I Emailed Customer Care and the Letter to the Editor addresses raising my concerns. I never heard back from the Editor, but Customer Care was happy to refund the unused fraction of my subscription so that I could switch to Zinio.

I appreciate that creating an iPad-specific design and rendering is expensive. I'm personally skeptical of its value. But the way Fast Company transitioned out of this model was terrible. The change was un-announced and completely ruined the reading experience for me. I am only continuing as a subscriber because of the availablity of Fast Company via Zinio.  Zinio offers an excellent balance of cost and benefit for reading on the iPad. See also: Reading on the iPad Part 11: Zinio, My New Favorite

I continue to highly recommend that magazine publishers switch to Zinio. For example the IEEE. qmags still hasn't fixed any of the problems I flagged years ago. They have been surpassed by Zinio, but, alas, the IEEE has not yet noticed.

In related news:

The IEEE Computer Society has quit offering IEEE Computer via qmags. Sadly, they didn't adopt Zinio. There was a self congratulatory note sent out touting the additional formats available instead. For example, Kindle Format. Alas, the Kindle rendering was as bad as the Forbes rendering I reviewed back in 2011 (Reading on the iPad Part 6: Forbes was a disappointment.) I summarize the relevant bit:

The beautiful glossy magazine had been ground down into a cheap paperback book. The pages shrank down to 3x6 inches and the typography was reduced to a single font in only a couple point sizes. Colorful icons and graphical navigational aids were eliminated and everything re-formatted into block paragraphs. But as if to comply with a marketing directive to be able to say, "We offer color!" a very few select photographs were retained as "color plates" scattered throughout.

Forbes sensibly abandoned that format. The IEEE Computer Society has yet to learn what was obvious to some of us in 2011.

Pretty much the only rendering of IEEE Computer I find useful is the PDF format. With a few clicks I can get from the Email announcing the new issue through the iPad web browser into iBooks. If only Apple would copy Zinio's great interface for organizing magazine issues and bookmarks across items.

I feel that the IEEE Computer Society got caught up in offering a list of features, and lost contact with how to provide the best user experience. In my opinion, inadequate outreach was made to their own contacts in the User Experience realm.

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