The iPad and The Print Industry

Shawn Blanc:

Instead of trying to find that spot between print and iOS, they should leave the historical traditions of print design altogether. Instead of leaning on the perceived value of a physical printed periodical they should look to the iPad’s new value of delight, ubiquity, and instantaneous digital access. Moreover, they need to find better ways to bring their articles to their iPad readership. Magazines need to cater their layout design and interaction design to the iPad rather than attempting to fit the iPad around their previous print-tested designs.

I think one of the main reasons why the publishing industry is trying to fit the tried and true print design unto the iPad is because, well, it is tried and true. There is ink, printer, and paper. These three elements have been around for quite some time. We’ve formulated a finely-tuned, efficient, high-quality method of printing stuff. This entire process is dependable.

The iPad has been with us for just over a year. And in that time it has catapulted itself as the tablet to have. But this type of media tablet was introduced to us along with the iPad. So it hasn’t survived the test of time. Expecting the print industry to find new standards that work with this thing called the iPad is premature. It might not ever happen.

The ink, printer, and paper equivalents on the iPad are pixels, iOS, and the 9.7-inch 1024×768 IPS LCD. Out of these three that last bit might not last all that long. With a new 9.7-inch Retina Display anything that has been “typeset” with a pixel format of 1024×768 in mind will need to be changed when the 2048×1536 version comes out. I think once we get to a Retina Display-equipped iPad, in terms of resolution not display technology, we’ll stay there for quite some time, but still that’s one reason why a complete embrace might not be happening just now.

Will the iPad, once the iPad Pro comes out, stay the way it is long enough (and then some) for the print industry to establish standards and practices around the new digital ink, printer, and paper? Technology being what it is, I have my doubts.

PS: John Gruber suggests resolution independences as one of the two features, in addition to Shawn Blanc’s wish list, that he would like to see in iPad magazines. From what I can tell, Apple is solving the resolution problem by having complete control of digital ink, printer, and paper. If Apple was planning future iPads with different pixel formats and not exactly double the pixels of the current iPad, then we would need resolution independent iOS apps. But with the 9.7-inch Retina Display there is no need. And I would hazard to guess that pixel-doubling requires less overall resources than going fully resolution independent. Where resolution independence is most needed is on OS X.

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