I HAVE BEEN TOLD I DESERVE
“A FULL LIFE THAT ISN’T JUST ABOUT FIGHTING FOR THINGS”

Jack Shafer:

[T]ablet-optimized publications will find themselves regarded by consumers as just another Web site, and the proprietors who thought they had a new, impregnable platform from which to sluice profits will be right back where they started – one site struggling against many.

As I have described already, the executives who are piloting the magazine industry into the mountainside believe a “digital magazine” should be published in a proprietary format (using a proprietary reader or software) and should be composed of “pages” that “flip.” While these people are enemies of the medium, they will eventually be fired or simply cause their companies to go bankrupt (in both cases leading to great risk of failing upward). Or, like many other Boomers, they’ll just have a heart attack and have to retire early.

Meanwhile, there is at least some articulation of a rational future for the magazine. A digital magazine may indeed be expressed in a form of HTML. No other kind of structured markup is really viable; HTML has had a decade to prove it is good enough. HTML is bereft of many structures magazines genuinely need, but its markup is expressive enough for magazine articles and illustrations, among other things.

Hence a digital magazine may be a “Web site” when viewed in a browser, or may be a form of rendered markup when viewed on something else. Cases in point: ePub, DAISY, iTunes LP. Note how the first two of those formats solve the problem of collating related articles into one unit, a defining characteristic of a magazine or newspaper.

At some point somebody other than me is going to notice a few problems with this scenario.

  • Distractibility. Cory Doctorow is – uncommonly – quite correct in noting that any E-book or E-text reader with a net connection leads to distracted reading. You’re just one touch away from checking your E-mail or moral equivalent. Any reader with a net connection becomes a Web browser or, in essence, a netbook.
  • Intrusions. Even highly-standards-compliant code can render hideous animated advertisements. Advertisers never bother with such niceties and use the most intrusive technologies available, like Flash. This alone is an argument against Flash support on any kind of reading device. Your digital magazine will be festooned with blinking, moving, shouting advertisements.
  • Malware and spying. A platform that permits Flash may permit executable files of other kinds, installing malware on your device behind your back. At the very least your reading habits will be tracked and reported. (We already use this for benign goals, as by installing a 1 × 1-pixel Flash application to check whether or not you’re using a screen reader.)

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2010.01.12 13:23. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2010/01/12/md3/

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