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New Yorker Gets Nooked

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

With the arrival of the more powerful Nook Tablet this season, magazine publishers now have a much broader set of platforms on which to publish enhanced editions. Along with the Amazon Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet offers a 7-inch device that is powerful enough and spacious enough to handle the multimedia extras that until now have been specific to the iPad. Conde Nast is among the first major print publishers to begin the migration of their digital magazine apps to the new tablets. The New Yorker app on iPad had emphasized the comfortable reading experience rather than bells and whistles on the iPad, and the publisher continues that model on the Nook Tablet version we tried.

New Yorker for Nook Tablet uses the same Adobe publishing system that powers CN’s magazines on the other tablets. The interface is now familiar to most device users. Most cover and table of content headlines have hot links to the specific articles. A handy Back button back tracks the reader through previous clicks. A drop down TOC and full issue visual index drops down for multiple ways of navigating the content. In general lateral swipes move the reader across major articles and sections, while vertical swipes move through pages. A page scrubber of thumbnails also pops up on the bottom of the screen. All of these functions work very smoothly under the Nook Tablet’s increased processing power and are at least as snappy as on the iPad, perhaps a bit quicker than we have seen on the still balky Amazon Kindle Fire.

The chief challenge for any enhanced magazine on these new tablets is the screen size and aspect ratio. This interactive New Yorker dispenses with the earlier model used on the Nook Color that extracted text from articles in a pop up window for easier reading. This version is fully reliant on a fixed format and text size fitting in the 7-inch display. Generally we found the results readable, if not quite as enjoyable as the iPad version. We did wish for some font adjustment, since the text in most of these New Yorker pieces had thick left margins that squeezed the text into more of a tower than seemed necessary.

Interactivity is well handled. The signature conveniences of the New Yorker’s digital iterations are the navigable Goings On About Town section and the aggregated cartoons. The front matter of reviews and listings has a good home page that puts the section navigation into a vertical column and highlights the top reviews in each section in a tappable popup. The cartoons are assembled into a vertical scroll.

The long screen orientation of the 7-inch tablets change the reading experience of digital magazines from the more square aspect ratio of the 10-inch iPad, generally for the worse. For this reader, the longer more narrow format breaks the illusion of print substantially and replaces it with a more device-like and mobile feel. The user simply needs to scroll more to get less. Conde Nast has done its best to accommodate the dimensions by reformatting some pages and now requiring that advertisers include print creative that fills the longer screen. Still, the Nook Tablet implementation does not take any advantage of landscape orientation so even videos run in a diminutive and much-diminished letterbox in the portrait view and the handy zoom-ins for illustrations often fail to reach the largest and most immersive dimensions on the screen.

The 7-inch execution of The New Yorker on the Nook Tablet is an exercise in deft compression. There is no denying that compared to the superior iPad experience, a digital magazine, even an interactive one, is diminished at this scale. Nevertheless, the compromises are likely much more obvious to seasoned iPad users than they will be to first-time tablet owners who will be pleased in having a fully usable and enhanced version of favorites like The New Yorker at hand.


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