February 4, 2010

Hello, iPad! Goodbye Print On Paper

Apple's new iPad will change everything for us gardeners who are missing good gardening books and journals.It’s here, well almost, and I am thrilled. I’ve been waiting for a device that will offer more mobility than a laptop, so that I can read it in bed, and one that had internet access, bright light and fast interface. Zthe new iPad promises this and more.

Imagine what a Kew Magazine will look like, a North American Rock Garden Society Journal, or a Scottish Rock Garden Club interactive magazine will look like.

Many gardening magazine with some botanical interest are already available in a flip-page format, all we needed was a excellent quality larger reading device so that we can carry them anywhere with us, the Apple iPad is just the thing.

Nothing excited me more this week than Apple's long awaited anouncement about their new four color, thin, affordable, clear screened, light, amazing iPad. I am already waiting in line, for this is something that I believe in - this one invention will change everything, a tipping point, if you will, on how we consumer information as gardeners. (OK. groan everyone, but just watch).

Don't get me wrong, no one loves books and magazines more than me, and believe me, I've resisted every tech trend that has "ruined" my passions - Casettes to CD's, Ektachrome to digital, and letters on paper, to email. But what this really is about, is simple adjusting, for now, we can have more. More information, more color photos, more video, more mobility. Our beloved garden and plant magazInes ( and plant society journals) are not going away at all, they will become more plentiful, and more available to more people.

We've all survived the whole "We don't have a digital projector" thing as gardeners, and now, we groan at those who have to set up their glass slides, when we are attending a plant society meeting. We do adopt tech faster than we think, sometimes. Sure, the charm of print on paper will be missed, and maybe, it won't go away at all, for, just at cooking books, maybe our publishers will focus on high quality plant publication rather than magazine and monographs. Besides, nomenclature and classification changes so fast nowadays, that this might be one way to always stay current. Medical journals and other scientific journals are already published digitally.

Zinio, a quality digital book and Magazine site may be a source for plant society journals in the future, they already offer text books and some plant magazines from around the world.

Check out Zinio, which is doing something along the same lines with magazines & iPhones. It’s a brilliant site, with amazing content already, albeit a little pricey, I would imagine that the cost for subscriptions will move downwards soon.

There is alot for us to get over, mainly, don't bitch about having to "print out the pdf". There will be a day, when we can sit up in bed and read a digital reader, like this first generation iPad, which allows you to elegantly "flip" pages which look nothing like the Amazon digital reader's, but has pages that look exactly like real paper. It has gorgeous wooden bookshelves on which your fav garden and plant magazines can be stored, but it offers so much more. Imagine a plant magazine or a quarterly such as the North American Rock Garden Quarterly, now you can have color on every page, tap a photo on an artivle, and it can become a video, tap another page, and an entire list of plant species with links to sources or other videos can be accessed, and, best of all, you don't need a bedside light!

Then, imagine that this one device can hold ALL of your fav magazines, pdfs, or whatever we will call them, so when you are in the Dr. office waiting room, or on a plane, you can have not just 5 magazine, but ALL of your collections, plus some movies, a few nature shows, your entire music collection, your photos, and access to the internet. It also will have the Wall Street Journal, and the London Times. You choose, but my point is that you can have it all.

I was curious this week, since I already started publishing a digital magazine of sorts, I was wonder what was already out there, and I was surprised. The site Issuu allows you to publish your own digital documents with page flip, and there are many others. Then there is this site called Zinio, which already has many books and magazines available by subscription. There is still alot to work through, first, the cost, but that will come down eventually, just as music has, maybe we will be able to down load just the articles we like for .99 cents similar to iTunes.

Plant societies, take note- this is the PERFECT device for your members, and any society that isn't looking at publishing or distributing a .pdf newsletter or journal, is not taking advantage of the wonders of free technology today.

Imagine interactive textbooks (say for a book on Cape Bulbs or Taxonomy Science). Today, physical textbooks are as obsolete as chalkboards, and they’re pricing themselves out of existence, not to mention they’re out of date even before they get to print. The iPad will change all of this, because of it’s immediacy and changability.

Digital Gardening magazines are already available from around the world, even New Zealand.
So what do you see as the future of the magazine and enthusiast books on the iPad? Steve Jobs mentioned it briefly in his keynote presentation. I envision an interactive experience for students that has layers of depth – like a series of nested sidebars, each one delving deeper into a subject (such as how Hellebores or alpine plants germinate, for example) and going as far as a student has interest in exploring. It would link to on-line content and have multimedia fully integrated into the app’s interface, perhaps even virtual lab experiments that take advantage of the accelerometer. ( My bee and the Androsoce idea!). The possibilities are very exciting; the iPad will be much more useful for education that iPods or Palms simply because they are larger, yet extremely portable. As a media designer and horticulturist, I cant’ wait to get more involved.

Since I also design magazines, I believe that this iPad will change future of magazines and newspapers. I saw an inspiring page of the NYT at the Apple press conference, and amazing games from EA. Now, all of this can be together, and suddenly, and plant journal with 4 pages of color feels very old fashioned. Will I miss paper? Sure, I still do, but I have to admit that I find myself cruising around on the plant nursery sites more than I do perusing catalogs. That was a change I thought I would never make. Still, if Dan Hinkley every opened a nursery again, I would want to read his paper catalogs over and over, as I still do.

By March, we will be able to download magazine app’s, which will likely make it possible to access a number of magazines, and eventually plant society journals via subscription. The big difference here, will be the interactivity that will, or should, be integrated into the media, otherwise these will be nothing but websites. But mark my words it will happen, especially when the still surviving magazines are all looking at producing content like Martha Stewart Living and National Geographic, both are already available in digital versions.

I firmly believe that the new iPad will have a strong and positive impact on all gardeners who love to consumer information about the plants they love. With magazines and journals going the way of the Dodo, we can only choose to celebrate this new device. And, if you are one of those people who still whines about the good ol days ( hey, I was there too!), there isn’t much you can do other then ignore the potential, or lean into it. I opt for leaning, this could be fun.
I can imagine all sorts of digital products being available soon for experiencing on the iPad, including full color books and magazine, with video, music and interactive links to sources.

The iPad will be released next month, but already there are some regular main stream magazines available that gardeners might find interesting. There is a simple but elegant solution for retaining the look-and-feel of a magazine is to go through a service like Exact Editions. I really like the quality of they are offering, plus they have an iPhone app. I suspect they will have something for the iPad soon


  1. Anonymous7:33 AM

    Your choice of colors makes it hard to read your site. It looks nice but not very friendly on the eyes.

  2. Anonymous10:08 AM

    What a shame.

    I adore paper.

    Nothing comes close to the touch of paper and beautiful images.

    Computer screens will never compare even for a Apple fan as myself.

    Long live paper!

  3. Thanks for you comments, but it is always hard to respond to folks who remain anonymous. Anyway, I'v been thinking of going back to a dark brown or grey backgrouns, and white type would probably work better than cream, but as a color specialist, I prefer white type on black in digital environments, or in film. Pixels emit light, and there is nothing worse than a white web site with black type. That strains my eyes. On paper, I feel that black ink on white paper is best, especially if the typeface is serif, and the leading is adjusted perfectly. That said, this digital font is a bit tough to read on black, but blogger offers few options. I think that if i adjusted the Kerning between characters, that the site would read better. Still working on it.

    But lately, I have heard lots of comments from ( mostly older people) who still think that white type on black is hard to read, If that is the case, why do feature films use white type on black> Take a lesson for other digital or projected mediums, such as television, or public signage, red type on white signs is what amateur pizza parlour signs may use but white type knocked out of a solid color is preferred by the big brands. Television or other broadcast signage maximize white digital type on color whereas the amateur commercials seem to use colored type on colored backgrounds or colored RGB type on white, which is far more difficult to read.
    I may experiment with grey type on white, but web sites especially those that want to feature photography, which is in a sense, theater, are all about contrast, and images in RGB look best on a no-light background, rather than a full 100% pixels turned on background, and the most soothing to the human eye are those sites with little light being emitted, such as National Geographic, Nike, Nikonians and other photo rich sites.
    If I can change my typeface used in text, it would read better, but the last thing I want to do is to add eye strain with a white page, and black text. That, is reserved for ink on paper.

  4. Honestly, I find it rather hard to read also - I highlight almost the entire text to make it easier on my eyes every time I visit. (Check out how much easier it is to see the comment box text when overlaid on your blog page)
    As for the ipad thing - paper will never disappear.
    It's going to take a long to for gardeners to even try it - the ones with money anyway. With the economy the way it is now, I don't expect many will be able to purchase it, considering gardening is now becoming 'chic' simply to save money they don't have to spend on toys (which is exactly what the ipad is).

  5. Would you be willing to do a post on some of your favorite international gardening magazines?


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