Digital Reading gets Deeper

Yesterday, after several months of work, The Wire magazine on the Exact Editions platform entered a new phase in which all the back issues are available to all the subscribers as a searchable and browseable resource. If you are an iPad user you need to pick up the freemium app here. It allows users to search all the content for free, and shows the search results in snippet form.

As a digital magazine, The Wire packs a staggering amount of information access into its £29.99 annual digital subscription. There are 353 issues now in the archive, so a very keen reader could just about get through the whole thing in a year. But that is not the way we are now reading stuff digitally. The current version of the Exact Editions platform (version 7.0) is giving more weight to tools which encourage the different style of reading that we are all learning to use with digital publications. I think of them as  the three “S’s”: searching, syncing and sharing.

For example, the latest issue of the Wire has an article about a cool sounding musician Ryoko Akama. Having read the article, I turned to the array of back issues and searched for by name through all the back issues. It turns out that the Wire has been writing about her since 2009 and it is easy for me to then sync and save all the pages on which she is mentioned. Once I have these search results sync-ed they show up on my Bookmarks.

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Searches for Ryoko Akama saved and bookmarked for future reference

Since these pages have now been located and are held on the device I can tweet, message or email a reference to any page that I know will appeal to my friends who share an interest in electroacoustic music.

At the top end of the magazine market, publications of real quality are seen as valuable and prestigious publications, either because they are very elegantly and carefully designed and edited, or because they are sources of real expertise on the subjects that they cover. Some magazines are both beautiful and authoritative and those are the magazines that have most to gain from going to a full archive and to choose digital solutions that encourage deep reading.

Bookmarking, Bookmarking Searches and Social Sharing

Exact Editions new apps (v 6.6) are now rolling through the works: Radical Philosophy and Blues Matters are two of the first through the gates. On the iPad they have a strong new bookmarking function. The user can bookmark interesting pages. Also searches can be bookmarked and sharing actions will be bookmarked in a ‘Shared’ folder. These are powerful tools and we think they will be greatly enjoyed by the magazines’ subscribers.

The Exact Editions apps now also have enhanced social features, so users can share page links via Twitter, Facebook, and via email etc….. When a page is Tweeted or emailed the tweet/email will give the recipient a direct link to the page cited and a thumbnail image of the full page. Subscribers can click through to the full content. Non-subscribers who click through will see a thumbnail and be encouraged to buy a subscription.

Delivering digital magazines as searchable, with deep archives, with pages that can be bookmarked and shared is a way of giving magazines on the iPad more heft more stickability and of course a way of unfurling more value for the subscriber. A subscriber who has browsed her archive, searched through years of back issues, bookmarked important articles and shared cool views with her friends, is a subscriber who is going to renew her subscription. We think magazines that have a rich content stream absolutely need strong searching and bookmarking capabilities.

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Lifestreams and Magazine Streams

David Gelernter has a fascinating essay over at Wired on: The End of the Web, Search, and Computer as We Know It. He argues that our web-based spatial metaphors for computing are being replaced by time-based metaphors, or what he calls lifestreams, which are highly individual and instantaneous, which get melded together to form a global worldstream. Some of his commentators think that Gelernter was ‘under the influence’ when he wrote the piece, it is certainly an intriguing and allusive mix:

Until now, the web has been space-based, like a magazine stand; we use spatial terms such as “second from the top on the far left” to identify a particular magazine. A diary, on the other hand, is time-based: One dimension of space has been borrowed to represent time, so we use temporal terms like “Thursday’s entry” or “everything from last spring” to identify entries.

Time as a metaphor may seem obvious now. Especially because it’s natural for us to see our lives as stories, organized by time. The End of the Web, Search, and Computer as We Know It

He predicts a world in which our digital experience is much more individual, more transient, more self-narrated, but completely accessible  since it is wholly based on information streams, managed for us by stream browsers, which divert channels from the global information lifestream.

This future doesn’t just kill the operating system, browser, and search as we know it — it changes the meaning of “computer” as we know it, too.

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Are Magazines About to be Forked?

Forking happens in software projects when a developer or group of developers takes code that has been developed by one community for one purpose, and then duplicates that code and takes it off in another direction. Forking an operating system or an ‘open source’ software project or application may be perfectly legal and within the spirit of the free software. For example, Google launched Android as a free and open operating system for mobile software development and more or less invited other companies to adapt and innovate from it. Since Google had given Android an ‘open’ status, Amazon was perfectly within its rights to use this free and open operating system for its own benefit and chuck out the ‘detachable elements’: Google Search, YouTube and Google Maps, that Google would probably like all Android implementations to keep on board. Amazon’s tablet operating system (which it doesn’t call Android) will now, probably, steadily diverge from Google’s to become a different beast.

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Searching Magazine Apps

Exact Editions apps are all searchable. Individual issues can be searched; years, decades and all the available archive can be searched from within the magazine app. We have recently introduced a new search engine and an improved interface for browsing magazine archives and selecting the focus for a search.

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