SELF Magazine embraces iPad functionality, but gives no love to subscribers

Apr 7, 2011
Shine

I have a bachelor’s in magazine editing, so I’m thrilled to see publisher Conde Nast roll out yet another iPad app that is truly embracing magazines as a digital format. The latest from the publishing powerhouse is the app SELF Magazine. The app is doing digital right, and should entice casual readers to buy in […]

I have a bachelor’s in magazine editing, so I’m thrilled to see publisher Conde Nast roll out yet another iPad app that is truly embracing magazines as a digital format. The latest from the publishing powerhouse is the app SELF Magazine. The app is doing digital right, and should entice casual readers to buy in on occasion; current subscribers are currently left in the cold.

SELF Magazine is a free download and includes a brief preview issues for users to see the type of bonus material included in a typical issue. Normal issues run a steep $3.99 apiece, with no digital subscription option. If you’re a current subscriber, tough: To take advantage of SELF on iPad, you’ll need to buy the issue like everyone else. That’s too bad because SELF Magazine looks great in iPad format.

One of my favorite features in the SELF app is how it presents its exercises. Instead of the static step-by-step images you find on print pages, whenever an exercise is presented in SELF, users can tap the image to see the complete, full-motion exercise. Swiping over the model gives you a slower, frame-by-frame animation, ensuring that you learn the correct form to avoid injury. Throughout the app, readers will be treated to interactive hot spots and features. The April issue, for example, offers a slot-machine-style chart of healthy meals that allows you to customize your daily meal plan. If you’re cooking from a SELF recipe, you can tap the ingredients and directions to “check off” (they turn light gray) the steps as you go. Overall, it seems that the team behind SELF Magazine really thought about how to make a digital copy useful, and succeeded.

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Although I’d love to give SELF Magazine a perfect rating (in spite of its pricing problems), I can’t. Why? Because after you purchase an issue, you have to download and install it. The April issue is 386MB, and a file that size takes a chunk of time no matter your Wi-Fi speed, and SELF Magazine does not support background downloading. Exit the app to check email, and your download pauses. Frustrating. To boot, you can’t read the issue while it downloads, and the app also blocks access to viewing previously installed issues, leaving you with only one option: waiting.

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