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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Magazines on the iPad. Maybe pictures aren't the point.

After a few weeks the iPad feels like a neat domestic device. It's ideal for keeping at the end of the dining table to settle arguments or check train times. It's perfect for sitting on your lap when you're not that bothered about what you're supposed to be watching on the TV. It slots into all sorts of intervals in daily life. We listen to the Archers podcast last thing at night on it. I'm sure it will have lots of similar uses.

However I've justified my purchase on the basis of it being touted as The Future Of Magazines. For the last year crystal ball gazers have promised that the iPad's large screen and fabulous display would mean it can finally equal the visual impact that magazine editors hold so dear.

I've downloaded a few, ranging from customised edition apps like Wired and Popular Science to "page-turning" facsimiles such as you can get for Wallpaper or Esquire. Only time will tell whether these will outlive the novelty stage.

However I'm already wondering whether pictures on the iPad will ever have the same impact as they have in a glossy magazine. This is partly because if you get the pictures big enough then you have to cheat on the grammar of the traditional magazine by drastically reducing the number of words on the spread. It's also because the pictures are behind glass rather than under your fingers. Once we're looking at a screen we expect to be able to choose what we want to see big, not have it dictated to us by an editor.

It could be that what the iPad does best is provide another means of navigating material on the web through traditional news readers and very clever things like Flipboard. Which would be no help to anyone.

Still. Early days.