Discover - Wikipedia in a Magazine

| Free on iTunes

The focus of write this week’s Free on iTunes was going to be library apps, but I found that I needed to do more research before I could confidently talk about them. So, I found myself scrambling to find something cool to talk about.

When I found Discover - Wikipedia in a Magazine, an app from Cooliris, I was nearly blown away, so Discover is the only app I’ll be talking about this week, but it’s quite an app.

What Discover does is take Wikipedia articles and presents them in an e-magazine format on the iPad. It’s a slick way to present information, and I can see this thing taking off if it becomes popular. I can see text and trade books using this format to display warehoused data, journals can be presented in a more compelling (meaning less boring) way, and even periodicals would benefits from this format. It still needs a bit of work, but only a bit.

Front page of Discover’s Current article

Front page of Discover’s Current article

Take a look at the screen captures. The front page changes with each new issue, and it looks every bit as good as many print magazines. Shake the iPad at the cover page to randomly pick a previously published issue. Swipe your finger across the screen at the cover page to view the Photo of the Day, which is not necessarily related to any of the articles presented for that day.

Articles are full of photos and charts

Articles are full of photos and charts

Swipe back to the cover page and tap any of the Play symbols (>) and you are delivered into that article. Once in the article all controls are related to that article, so swiping moves you back and forth in the article. Swiping up puts you in a search screen, swiping down deposits you in your article history screen, where you can go back to articles you’ve viewed before. To get back to the cover page you have to give the iPad a shake.

I’m not a fan of the interface, it’s not intuitive, and I definitely don’t enjoy shaking my iPad for any reason. Shaking is a disruptive action that ruins what might otherwise be a pleasant experience. There’s no need to shake anyway, especially since the iPad understands multiple touches.

I should be able to swipe and tap my way through the entire magazine using one or two fingers as I go; one finger to maneuver in the current article, two fingers to maneuver in the magazine. Hopefully, Cooliris will fix this.

Even with the kludgy interface, the potential of Discover is readily seen. Any existing digital content can be easily turned into a useable e-magazine, complete with multimedia access and ads. And the ads are key.

Cooliris inserts their ads several pages into every article, and the ads are full of motion and color. The only problem I see is that ad links require you to leave the magazine. This will be partially fixed when iOS4, with its multitasking and app switching, is available for the iPad, but I think that Cooliris would do better to incorporate iAds into their e-zine, so that the user never leaves the app.

Ads are multimedia

Ads are multimedia

With decent ads, other publishers might see revenue potential in the Cooliris system and adopt it, which, in turn, makes more content available, and I’m all for more content.

Lets go back to the Photo of the Day section, this is more than just a posed pretty picture. Tap the Play button and Discover brings up the Wikipedia entry for the photo. Like the features article, the photo article is complete, with more photos and in depth discussions on the subject at hand.

Photo of the Day is a great way to discover things

Photo of the Day is a great way to discover things

If you run across a word you’re not familiar with then a simple touch pops up a window displaying a dictionary definition of the word. You can then touch the window to get more information if there is any. In this way you can discover all sorts of stuff you never knew. Again, if you want to return to the front page you give the iPad a shake, which we’ve established as not being a good thing.

What’s also not good is the lack of a way to mark where you’ve been. As you tap and veer further away from the original topic you’ll find that you may have visited more than a handful of articles, and some may contain some thing you’ll want to read through again. Being able to leave a bookmark would be a godsend. In fact, I’d trade the article history page for a list of bookmarks. I don’t necessarily care about all the articles I read, but I do care about some of them, and those I want to go back to.

Lastly, there is no breadcrumb feature where you can go back through the articles you’ve just visited in reverse sequence. The usefulness of breadcrumbs and bookmarks are obvious and I’m surprised they are not included. But then, this is the first version of the app, so stay tuned.

One final thought: I’m not so sure how long Cooliris can hold onto that app name since the name is easily confused with Discover Magazine, which also offers a web version of its printed magazine. So, set your litigation timers, it shouldn’t take long.

In the meantime, grab Cooliris’ Discover - Wikipedia in a Magazine app. It’s free. It’s cool. It’s a great way to learn new things, and it’s…um, free!

That’s a wrap for this week.

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Comments

sandifop

I gave the article 5 hits…and that isn’t good.  Here is why: TMO has several links within this piece that look like they should take you to the the App Store or the publisher’s webpage.  Instead, TMO links back to the article you are currently reading.  Why? Why link back to a page you are currently viewing?  Being cynical, I guess it is to drive up page visits. 
Additionally, why not tell the reader this is an iPad only app?

MaxHedrm

That’s of course on top of the bad writing…

When I found Discover - Wikipedia in a Magazine, an app from Cooliris, I was nearly blown away

Nearly blown away? Huh? It was almost really impressive?

...I can see this thing taking off if it becomes popular.

No kidding, ya think?

Vern Seward

I appreciate the “constructive” criticisms.

Opinions are subjective.

Vern Seward

sandifop

Regarding “Discover - Wikipedia in a Magazine” at The Mac Observer, Vern
Seward wrote:

I appreciate the “constructive” criticisms.

Perhaps you can point me to some of your articles. I’m sure every one is
absolute perfection since it’s apparent that Jesus Christ has siblings.

Vern Seward

Interesting. Thanks for demonstrating my point about TMO. (My comment wasn’t directeted at you…initially, Vern)

Vern Seward

Interesting. Thanks for demonstrating my point about TMO. (My comment wasn?t directeted at you?initially, Vern)

Actually Sandifop, my comment wasn’t directed at you either, however, I should not have made it at all. I apologize and have since removed the comment.

The links were bad, a mistake on my part. They’ve been fixed.

Vern Seward

AaronWessels

We wanted to let you know there is a new version of Discover by Cooliris available, now with offline mode.

Since launching July 31, Discover by Cooliris has been consistently ranking among the top free apps. Fast-forward [five weeks] and [225,000] downloads later, today?s launch of version 1.1 only promises to make Discover even hotter.

With the introduction of offline mode in Discover 1.1, users can enjoy Wikipedia articles with Discover anywhere and anytime when they are not connected to the Internet—on an airplane, in a car, at the cabin in the woods, you name it. The upgrade also includes several tweaks that make navigation even more seamless.

To learn more you can see the full blog post: http://blog.cooliris.com/2010/09/09/discover-for-ipad-now-with-offline-mode/

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