By Kevin Morrissey and Waldo Jaquith
June 8th, 2010
We’re excited to announce that the first digital version of VQR, the Spring 2010 issue, is now available for sale at Apple’s iBookstore at an introductory price of just $3.99. Developed completely in-house, the Spring 2010 issue has been optimized for the iPad, taking advantage of all of the device’s advanced features. iPad owners can download a free 29-page sample of the issue to get an idea of what it looks like. From what we can tell, we’re one of the first magazines for sale in the iBookstore.
The ePub version of the Spring issue contains almost everything found in the print version*, and also includes interviews with four of the contributors to the issue.
In the next few months, we intend to offer the ePub version of the magazine to all current subscribers for free or at a low cost.
It may seem a bit narrow to produce a version of the publication solely for the iPad—rather than supporting the Kindle, Nook, or Sony Reader—but it was a decision that we came to after a lot of study and consideration. It is important to us that we distribute VQR in a manner that is open, unencumbered by the limitations of digital rights management and patents. And it is important to us that the photographs in our pages be reproduced without a significant loss in quality. This leaves only e-readers that support the ePub standard, which rules out the Kindle. The Nook and the Reader have only crude black-and-white displays, leaving the iPad as the only candidate that meets our criteria. Apple is slated to release their eBooks software for the iPhone and iPod Touch, which will make our digital edition of the magazine available on any of the one hundred million portable Apple devices in use today. We hope to support more devices in the future as they embrace the ePub standard and full-color images.
Those who have been following digital publishing trends in the magazine world will note that we took a different path than other magazines by publishing VQR as an ePub. (Several dozen magazines are available for the Kindle, but in our opinion, they look awful.) Nearly every magazine selling a digital edition for the iPad is doing so as a stand-alone application. This is a mistake. Releasing issues of magazines as apps is bad for readers and publishers alike. True, the ePub format is not ideal for magazines, but the ePub Revision Working Group has a new release slated for next spring that will remedy that. VQR has been around for 85 years. We take the long view. The open, simple, accessible, indexable, archivable ePub format is clearly the best option for us and for our readers.
A note on the design process: At this early stage in their development, most e-books are crude looking compared to a well-designed print publication. They have few or no images, very little thought is put into typography, layout, or the reader’s experience. The ePub edition of VQR is quite the opposite. We have produced what we believe to be the most advanced ePub available. Period. We take a great deal of pride in the design of our magazine, and our standards are no different when publishing electronically. That said, technology does not quite yet give us the sort of fine-grained detail that we have when producing a print edition, so it simply doesn’t look as nice as the print version. The photographs are smaller, there is no hyphenation, we can’t control widows and orphans (and the occasional blank page), and it’s generally not perfect, but it is awfully good.
Everything about this is experimental, from the pricing to the format, so we’re eager to get feedback. E-mail us, send us a Tweet, or post a comment here to let us what what you think after you buy a copy.
* In the ePub version, we are only able to show 3 of the 24 pages of Joe Sacco’s graphic journalism, “The Unwanted, Part 2.” The full piece is available in the print edition and online for our subscribers.
Bookselling Publishing VQR