5½ things you need to know about page-turners, magazine apps and HTML5

29 October 2012

The last few years have seen the steady rise and evolution of the humble page-turner. You know the kind of thing: PDF replicas of print magazines, viewed in your web browser with page-curl animation.

The obstinate refusal of this technology to go the way of the dodo – perhaps to the dismay of purist web designers and developers – suggests that page-turners still have something to offer.

But what? And what do you need to know to get the best out of them? Here are 5½ things to keep in mind when creating a digital edition of your print magazine:

1. Page-turners are actually quite popular

Despite, or perhaps because of, their simplicity page-turners offer a number of advantages for both publishers and readers. They retain the bounded feel of a magazine in a way that websites don’t. They are easy to share. And most importantly, page-turners are used and read by a lot of people – Issuu recently reported that monthly readership of their digital publications has reached 52 million. So, while it may not be leading edge technology, it gets the job done.

2. Plan them in and they won’t break the bank

Most repro houses incorporate the capability for page-turner production into their pre-press workflow. If all you want is a replica of your magazine, it’s a brilliantly cost effective and simple route. 

3. Flash needs to be considered early on

Conventional page-turners for PC browsers run on Flash, but if your main audience is likely to be using iOS devices (iPod, iPhone or iPad), which don’t support Flash, then you’ll need to consider an alternative.

There are, however, some solutions which will get you good graphic treatments without losing the iOS audience – such as creating an app or building your page-turner in HTML5.

4. Apps have advantages

One of the benefits of an app-based edition is that it gets the magazine onto the Newsstand (on Apple devices, Newsstand notifies you when a new issue is available) and only needs connectivity once to download each issue. Devices browsing editions on the mobile web always need to be connected.

The downside of apps is that, as things stand, a separate one needs to be created for each operating system, but these can be integrated into your workflow like the page-turners.

5. …but browser-based solutions can still deliver

While ‘shouldn’t we have an app?’ might be the most used phrase in 2012 marketing parlance, there are several options for getting a browser-based ezine to work on iOS devices. Sometimes a simple PDF will suffice (have a look at this e-edition of Tesco Real Food on your tablet) or, if you have the resources to build something from scratch, HTML5 allows us to create animations with a flash-like feel that will work on iOS. This Halloween ezine – also for Tesco Real Food – is a great example. 

And for mobile, HTML5 will work equally well on both Apple and Android devices, which means there’s no need to create different versions for different systems.

5½. And finally…

For those of you who believe that great magazine design can’t be achieved with HTML in a browser, have a look at this Pitchfork article on Bat for Lashes. No Flash or PDFs in sight.

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