E-Magazines have certainly come a long way since first appearing on the original iPad. The sparse or rehashed content, user interface problems and bugaboos, and the sheer variety of newly created formats made them as gangly, unsteady, and energetic as a day-old colt. But colts learn to trot, then gallop with speed and grace as they mature, and so it seems for e-mags.
Many publishers, though sadly not all, have embraced the tablet environment that is slowly, but surely, encroaching on the domain still ruled by paper and print, taking advantage of increasingly powerful hardware and software that tablets sport.
Early in e-mag world the features and functions tablets made possible seemed to be the focus of most magazines. Like many 3-D movies that highlight the fact that you're watching a 3-D movie by using 'stick-in-the-face' techniques where objects are thrust towards the camera, early e-mags tried to wow us with often over-the-top interface features. Clunky inline videos, unintuitive navigation, and other technologies were often not mature enough or poorly executed, thus diluting the reader's experience instead of enhancing it.
There are still some e-mags that just don't get it and continue to focus on wowing the reader, but many of today's publications found on tablets show a level of maturity that only comes with experience. You might think that these more advanced rags require payment before you can enjoy them. That, fortunately, is not always true. This is Free on iTunes after all, so free is key, and I have three such e-mags to talk about today. So lets get to them.
TRVL [12MB, iPad only, iOS 5.1 or later, Developer: Picture Contact BV]
Likely the the most un-magazine-like of the three, TRVL seems more like a browser or dedicated app than a publication. As the name implies, TRVL is about travel, places to go, places where people have been, what to do along the way, what to do when you get there.
I'm a huge fan of the interface. There's no index. Articles, which TRVL calls "magazines," appear as either a large tile or a pinpoint of a global map, depending on which view you prefer. Tap an article and you get the option to either read it now or save it for offline reading, in which case the article downloads, but only that article. New articles appear every Thursday.
Want to read it offline? You got it!
And the articles! While writing this I was engrossed by the article titled: Imilchil: Wedding Market. I couldn't stop reading. The other articles I've read are equally engaging. The stories are not the tripe you generally find in travel mags, these are real stories written by people who are just trying to earn a buck.
The photography is mesmerizing. Featured photos include the photographer's name and the camera settings! Whenever I see a featured photo I wonder if I could have shot the same thing. We'll never know, nut the photographers who did nailed it.
Lose yourself in the articles and photos
I'm not sure how TRVL earns a buck. There are no ads and only 3 in-app photobooks available for purchase. But you know what? That doesn't matter. It's free, it's exceptional, and it's one e-mag I'll be keeping.
TNW [4.2MB, all iOS devices capable of running iOS 5.1 or later, Developer: The Next Web Holding BV]
TNW?? The Next Web. But exactly what is The Next Web? In this case, its a very well connected e-mag that covers this and that from here and there. I've mentioned TNW before and deserves another mention because it's that good.
This shot is panned, and it's amazing!
Whereas TRVL is definitely not your normal e-mag, TNW is also different, but in a more traditional way. The mag has a front page and table of contents, it even has a slider index and ads, all of which are missing from TRVL. So what's different? Content! If we go back to the 3-D movie analogy, the only 3-D movie I thoroughly enjoyed was Avatar, and that's because 3-D wasn't showcased, it was an integral part of the movie.
That's how TNW integrates interesting features into its articles. The lead-off photo of steep, snow covered mountain peaks for the #WANT section, for example, pans to the right, letting you slowly take in the the majestic view the photo depicts. It's effective. The view is breathtaking.
The articles and reviews are well written, the photos are top notch, and those gee-whiz features? First rate. In fact, everything about the mag is top shelf. You even get to check out new music for free while you read.
It's feature packed and always interesting. TNW is a must download.
AUX [8.7MB, all iOS devices capable of running iOS 5.0 or later, Developer: GlassBOX Media Inc.]
Speaking of music, if you're into independent artists and cutting edge sounds then your heart will beat in syncopated rhythm while reading AUX. It's an e-zine dedicated to bringing you stories, interviews, and other articles about what's happening in the independent music scene.
See, this is the kind of stuff you won't find elsewhere. Bands on the verge of become big, bands just stepping out of the garage, bands that cater to a focused audience, they're all covered at one time or another in AUX's monthly publications.
As you might expect, the photos and stories are Rolling Stones quality, but the focus is on maintaining that independent feel. There's nothing grandiose about AUX. You come away from each story feeling a bit voyeuristic and somehow closer to the indie artist you've just read about.
Articles and pix gets you up close and personal with the indies
Of the three e-mags, AUX is the most traditional. It could easily be converted to print if the publication had a mind to. There are movies and audio clips, but that's the extent of it. No gee-wizardry to distance you from the stories. I like that.
Each AUX mag can be read offline, but any audio and video will require an Internet connection.
AUX has been around for a long time so there are many back issues to browse through. Grab a few.
And that's a wrap for this week. I'm getting all sorts of new stuff to write about, so be sure to stop back next week for more Free on iTunes.
And while you're here make sure you take a look at this week's free App of the Week; Plants vs Zombies HD. This has always been a top selling game and now you can get it for free for a very limited time. Go zombies!