(After a bit of a hiatus while teaching a summer class, I’m finally back with this overdue overview of print magazines taking the leap to digital.)

Print is dead, at least if you listen to the conventional wisdom of the past decade (or three). But there is still a multitude of things print-style journalism does really well, far better than the lifeless, utilitarian Web content you’re, um, reading right now. Despite the nay-saying of many in the blogoverse that the publishing industry is an old, tired, ancient dinosaur that’s old and tired, magazines are still capable of conveying striking beauty, energy and emotion, while imparting a depth of understanding uncommon on the Web. What’s broken is their business model, not their format, something publishers desperately hope digital magazines may help fix.

The lead-up to the iPad’s launch saw breathtaking visions of the future of publishing from the likes of Wired, Sports Illustrated and VIV, but the reality nearly two months after launch is decidedly less impressive. Wired has finally surfaced with a somewhat scaled-back (but non-Flash) version of its technogeek bible, but Sports Illustrated and VIV nowhere to be found yet. Thus it falls to a ragtag band of hopefuls to start staking out the iPad’s potential as a print-digital crossover. After the break, an overview of some of the most noteworthy attempts, what they get right, and where they fall short.

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iMeaCulpa

May 29th, 2010

The latest blog trend, following on the heels of the popular “Why the iPad is a letdown” articles that were making the rounds in April: the “Why I now love the iPad” article. One such example is a post by venture capitalist Fred Wilson, who wrote a fairly typical iPad pan a month ago, saying:

You give up a lot with the iPad and you don’t get much in return. You lose multi-tasking which is a huge deal for me. I can’t listen to music while I write this. That alone is a showstopper for me. Plus it’s slow as a computer. The apps run slow and so is the browser. That could be my wifi but my MacBook runs on the same wifi network and there’s a noticeable difference in the speed of browsing between them.

A fairly standard critique, echoing statements made by many others in the blogorama. Oh, but what’s this? Fast forward to this week, and all of a sudden, Mr. Wilson has fallen for his little aluminum buddy:

Over the past week, I have fallen in love with the thing. And so I am telling you why…

Part of it is the fact that I can go out on my terrace with a cup of coffee, a glass of lemonade, or a glass of wine and do email in a relaxed mood. If my wife or kids interrupt me, it’s easy to put the thing down and engage in a conversation. The iPad makes using a computer less of a commitment and that has important implications for the way I compute. I like how I feel when I am using the thing.

That difference in the way he evaluated the iPad then and now — first based solely on a cold, left-brain assessment of its features and shortcomings, followed by a more natural, emotional and shared (with his family) understanding of how it impacted his life — is the key to understanding the future of the iPad and the tablet in general.

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It's hip to use Square

Sci-fi convention vendors, street mimes and hot dog cart owners, rejoice! Square, the mobile credit-card-swiping system announced late last year by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, is now open for business. The rare company whose name, logo and product are all the same thing, Square offers a slick and simple method for accepting credit cards through an iPhone, iPad or Android phone, no merchant account or confusing accounting scheme required. That’s right, you can now accept credit cards as a buy-in at your weekly poker game, and when someone says, “Dude, I’ll give you twenty bucks for that t-shirt,” you can say, “Visa or Mastercard?”

Everything about Square screams simplicity, from the cute little card reader you plug into the headphone jack, to the service itself, which sports a beautiful and incredibly straightforward user experience, to the fee system — 2.75% + 15¢ per transaction for swiped cards, period. It also does lots of things the traditional credit card process should do, like email receipts and show the merchant a photo of the card holder for verification. You’ll want to get one just to try it out, and there’s really no reason not to — the reader, app and setup are all free, and available today. Now you just have to come up with something worth buying.

» Square Web site (and Fast Company, via Gizmodo)

In a case of selective fact-picking reminiscent of the most bitter divorce battles, Steve Jobs posted an open letter today about Apple’s ongoing hate-hate relationship with Flash. Among the juiciest tidbits is this statement about Flash’s openness:

Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.

Substitute “Apple’s iPhone” for “Adobe’s Flash,” and you’ll have a similarly true statement. More funtastic highlights after the break.

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iPad pre-orderers, if you’re like me, you’re in a funny predicament this week. I pre-ordered the 3G iPad a few weeks back, along with the standard black folder/easel case (because while it may be an overpriced piece of plastic, you’d be crazy to go commando with your shiny new toy). The 3G iPad goes on sale Friday, and preorders are shipping now (or shortly). The thing is, Apple shipped the case separately several days ago, and even with slower shipping, it arrived today, at least two days before the iPad will arrive. So, then: what can you do with the case while you wait for the iPad?

  1. Fancy display case for your iPhone 1G, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPod touch
  2. Convenient foldable serving tray for Freschetta brick oven pizza
  3. Great way to prop up your old-fashioned paper books while reading
  4. Emergency hair protector for sudden downpours
  5. Impress your friends with “magic disappearing iPad” trick
  6. Tell curious onlookers you left your iPad in your other pants
  7. High-tech cover screen for stylish Dungeon Masters
  8. Print out iPad photo, glue to plywood sheet, insert in case and sell it on eBay
  9. Stand on roof with friends and fling it for distance and accuracy
  10. Leave it in the box and wait for the damn iPad

Apple is certainly no stranger to hype — Steve Jobs has built its recent success on a giant, lofty cloud of it. But the “magical, revolutionary” iPad raised hype levels to previously unseen heights. Which reminded me of another product that was preceded by hyperbole and secrecy, only to be greeted with howls of derision upon its unveiling. The similarities are difficult to ignore…
 

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JooJoo

You have to have some sympathy for the makers of the just-released tablet device everyone is talking about — no, I’m talking about the JooJoo, Fusion Garage’s new tablet… thing. Or perhaps sympathy is the wrong word… pity? Disdain? Schadenfreude, anyone?

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