Even as it it just coming to market, the Apple iPad—and its tablet computer iCousins—is already inspiring designers to come up with dramatic new interactive publication formats. These dynamic formats offer both a challenge and an opportunity to communicators and researchers. Before a discussion of these new formats, take a look at the demonstrations below to get an idea of the possibilities.
First, a Time, Inc. demo of what a tablet computer version of Sports illustrated might look like:
To see a more artsy approach, watch the demos of the iPad version of the online magazine VIVmag featured in this New York Times Bits blog post “A Peek at an Interactive Magazine for the Apple iPad.”
Finally, look at Wired magazine’s description of its plans for an iPad version of the magazine.
So, what does this new interactive multimedia publication format mean for researchers and research communicators? One the positive side, it will offer a platform for dramatic communication of science and technology. Imagine how stunning would be interactive multimedia iPad versions of articles on Hubble images, genome structure or airplane design.
On the other hand, such interactivity wouldn’t add much functionality to such research news sites as Scientific American and Science News. And it would certainly add more production expense, as the Bits blog post points out. For example, each issue of VIVmag will cost $6, and the blog quotes the magazine’s chief marketing officer, Jeanniey Mullen as saying, “It is an expensive process…. It takes the same amount of time to create as a print edition, but we’re creating a living product that is fully dynamic.”
Also, given that tablet computers will not be ubiquitous for some time, it is certainly not cost-effective for research communicators to consider creating such publications now. There’s an old-time term, “play-pretty,” that people used to denote a shiny toy given a child. That term could be applied to these iPad formats. They’re not practical, but they sure are nice play-pretties.
However, as tablet computers proliferate—and as the production software tools come into routine use—these new formats could prove valuable for adding interactivity, drama and flash to the communication of research.