I love magazines and I buy more of them now than I ever have. I love the feel of them, the shiny pages and the big glossy images. I like the way good design and good writing work together to create something that feels made or intended. I don’t get those experiences from the Web, though the vast majority of my reading is now done online. Magazines are like an icecream sculpture in a fancy restaurant; the Web, by comparison, is an unstable snowfield on the brink of avalanche.
But I have hope. Firstly iPhone apps such as McSweeney’s show what can be done in terms of delivering nicely produced, good-looking content on a small device. McSweeney’s has proper typesetting and feels good to read even given the constraints of a tiny screen. Secondly Apple’s attempt to revive the album through iTunes LP shows what can be done when the constraints of the devices involved can be tightly controlled. Interestingly, given the current hype surrounding ‘content in the cloud’, neither of these examples is truly an ‘online’ experience, since the content is downloaded to a device. The result is that it is tightly controlled and not subject to bandwidth issues. Apple does something similar with its Apple TV, storing content on the device, rather than streaming it on demand across the network like other media players. In terms of magazines the following remarkable video shows what might be possible.