It was the uploading that took hours, not the scraping.
Nonetheless, I have fond, if dim, memories of those CD-ROM "magazines." Yet I did not notice when they died out. I could not tell you when they ceased publication. They were a flash in time for me.
Today, when a media pundit wants to dismiss publishing on the tablet, and the iPad specifically, the CD-ROM magazine is often the first, and ultimate, line of attack.
Apple’s new device may well prove an interesting market for a new generation of full-length creative works — books, movies, music, mashups of all of the above — works that people are likely to want to consume more than once. But for anything with a shelf-life half-life — news and information and commentary — the iPad is unlikely to serve as a savior. For anyone who thinks otherwise, can I interest you in a carton of unopened CD-ROM magazines? -- Scott Rosenberg.
I don't wish to single Scott out, but it's a nice summation of the typical argument being bandied about over the past several weeks and months. But now, after this weekend, we've finally gotten to see the so-called future of digital magazines. They are in almost every way quite distinct from the digital magazines of the past.
To read a CD-ROM magazine, first you had to obtain it. ( I'd argue that most people with computers in the mid-90s never even tried one because this was often such a huge hurdle. I could well be wrong.) But certainly, they weren't exactly easy to come by. Distribution took place exactly as it did with a print magazine: via the United States Postal Service. It arrived in a mailbox, or at a newsstand.
But in every case, you could not obtain the magazine and then immediately access it. You then had to take it back to your machine, insert it in a disc drive, and frequently install some horrible software. If you were on a Mac you might have to worry about compatibly issues. An older machine might choke on it--mine certainly did. Remove it from the drive, and you no longer had access to its content.
For the most part (this was before laptops were commonplace) you could not take it with you on a train, on a plane, on a boat, or in the backseat of a taxicab. You could not read it in bed at night, outside on a park bench, or in the loo. It would not fit easily into your bag, and yet conversely it was easily lost.
Tablet magazines--especially on the iPad--remove all of these inconveniences. The point of sale is wherever you are. Installation is a certainty, but it is also certainly easy, and certainly compatible. Once you have it, you can take it and read it anywhere and everywhere. It is every bit as convenient to carry as an actual printed magazine, and is much easier to obtain. You will not unintentionally misplace it.
Furthermore, the iPad allows a degree of interaction with pages and content that the CD-ROM did not. The experience of browsing a magazine in inherently tactile. Removing the content from the hands and placing it on a remote screen (to be navigated by mouse!) did not let one dive into the art, or flip through the pages as with a traditional magazine. Forget skimming. And diving in was nearly impossible too; processing power simply did not allow an immersive experience that moved as quickly as the brain. In other words: you had to wait a lot while shit loaded.
The iPad offers a different experience. It's very easy to immese oneself in pages, flipping through a book until the art or words catch ones eyes. Like print magazines, the iPad frees you from having to choose. You do not have to select a story from the table of content. You do not have to click on a link based on a 50-100 word summary. You can simply browse, and stop where you'd like. Even Men's Health, which is arguably the worst of the magazines I downloaded over the weekend (see below) feels far more akin to the traditional magazine experience than a CD-ROM ever did.
Does this mean the iPad is going to save magazines, in a way the CD-ROM did not? No. If you pretend to know what the future of magazines or media in general holds, only one thing is certain and it is that you are incorrect. Only magazines can save magazines. The iPad is nothing more than a platform that allows them to make a case for relevance, and ultimately survival.
But I can tell you that the iPad is not a CD-ROM. The comparison doesn't work. Quit making it.
And as a bonus, here are the magazines I downloaded and read over the weekend. The summaries are short and, probably, not completely fair. They are not the fruit of hours spent testing and contemplating. They are quick judgments. But in all reality, if an app doesn't pass a user's quick trial, there is no appeal to a higher court.
Men's Health: This appears to be little more than a PDF. I can't believe I paid $5 for a poorly-executed scan of the magazine. It isn't even completely legible. Magazines should provide an experience; my experience with this title rhymes with feels-like-I-got-butt-fucked.
Outside: I had some trouble with this. The app takes forever to launch and even longer to download the content. Once downloaded, it simply crashed, again and again, until I force-restarted my iPad. But then success! I found navigation excellent. The photos let you zoom in, as do the (initially small) videos. Page navigation was smooth and natural--and allows you to either flip through scanned pages or dive in via a TOC. I didn't need a tutorial to get how to do everything. On the downside, it remains glacially slow to launch.
Time: Time's magazine app has quite a few bugs. (And I was not the only one to notice this.) But once it gets the kinks worked out, the tech should be fantastic. Aside from the layout issues previously linked, I found it easy to navigate and browse. The help guide at the beginning shouldn't be necessary, but it's nice that it is there. I think the best thing about it is the Newsfeed feature--which pulls daily news updates from Time's website into the app. But at $5 per issue, it's horrifyingly, exceptionally overpriced for a newsweekly.
Popular Science: PopSci hit a homerun. The app really delivers on helping you dive into and explore the content. PopSci was also most innovative in terms of really taking advantage of the iPad's touchscreen. For example, a single tap on the left side removes all the text so you can focus on the images. Tapping once on the right side brings your words back again. My chief complaint is that it can, if anything, be a little too gee-whiz. Sometimes it feels like too much going on in a story, when I just want to get the information. It also plops all the text into a vertical column along the right-side of the page. That's not going to work for longer-form pieces.
GQ: This was my favorite. I read the entire issue, something I don't ever previously recall doing with GQ. It allows both page-to-page, or TOC navigation. A bar along the bottom helps you quickly access any point in the magazine. When you re-launch the magazine, it remembers where you left off, and starts you back again in the same place. (I think it is the lone title I tested to do so.) Better yet, GQ offers multiple ways to view the text and images: Images can be up top and accessed via thumbnails, or you can switch to a slideshow view and see them full size, or even zoom in larger. You can set aside some or none screen real estate for captions. Or you can let the text totally take over. In short, it gives you options for viewing and interacting with a story or stories. If you are in a browsing mood, you can do that. Want to just look at the pretty pictures? Done. Want to really dive into a story? Go for it. GQ did a fantastic job.