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DPS in trouble: people do not like digital magazines — 2 Comments

  1. Agreed. I recently saw one of the high-end digital magazine creation tools demonstrated. The things it could do were quite impressive. But readers would have to spend weeks dabbling with a digital magazine to get the hang of all the swiping this way to do that, and that way to do this. Many don’t want to bother.

    But ebook readers have a similar problem. Each functions enough differently to make using several a pain. Add that to the fact that, once you have more than a couple of dozen books, remembering which reader has which book becomes difficult. They’re as much a pain to use as TV remotes with all their buttons and obscure icons.

    The problem has at least two causes.

    One is the Geek Factor. Look at the computer games that geeks love and you realize that they’re delighted by the complex, obscure and intricate. Left to themselves they often create a horrible UI. They like things to be hard. Mastering that sort of thing gives them joy. One key to Apple’s success is that geeks don’t design the UI.

    The second is that going digital is a step away from the concrete. The superficial side of that is making applications that look like physical objects. Apple, for instance, is going through a fuss now over whether their Calendar should look like a desk calendar, complete with torn paper. That misses the point. Physical objects come with physical restrains. To turn the pages of a book, I must flip a physical object, the page, in a specific direction. Nothing else will work.

    Digital isn’t like that. I can swipe to turn a page. I can tap the side of the screen. I can press a button. If someone wanted, they could create an ebook reader with a camera that would look at a reader’s eyes. Blinking three times quickly could turn the page. That disconnect between the restrictions of the concrete and the anything goes world of digital is what creates confusion. When designers can do anything, users get confused about what things to do.

    It’s also why, within the Mac world, there was a fuss when Apple attempted to dictate that all scrolling should behave scroll pad scrolling rather than mouse scrolling. Behind each lay a different model of what in the physical world was being mirrored. Apple eventually had to relent and let users choose.

    There’s another factor with magazines. Someone has observed that, to become popular, a new technology has to be seen as ten times better than the old. Ebooks are growing because they do have numerous advantages. My Kindle 3 is lighter than almost any book, much less the dozens it can hold. And my iPad can display beautiful colors that’d cost a fortune in a print book. I recently revised one of my books, Hospital Gowns to take advantage of that.

    Digital magazines have fewer advantages. Most magazines are already full color. Most are lighter and more portable than any reader. Nothing is easer to use than a magazine–just flip through and find what you’d like to read. Leave an magazine in the bathroom and you don’t have to worry about it falling in the toilet. You could go on and on. In contrast, the advantages of digital magazines are mostly for the publisher, i.e. cheaper and quicker distribution. But what helps the publisher doesn’t attract readers.

    –Michael W. Perry, author of Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments

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