Recently, I questioned the immediate future of the iPad as a reader. I don’t see it as a game changer yet. That said, one thing bothered me for a long time – the fact that Sports Illustrated somehow found sense in charging print subscribers $4.99 for each iPad issue. I would expect non-print readers to pay for issues, but the idea of making those of us who already pay for print to double our investment is pure lunacy, especially when its key competition (ESPN The Magazine) doesn’t.
I actually downloaded the app some time ago, just to see what their iPad version looks like, but deleted it almost immediately when I found I had to pay for each issue. I then went back to the App Store and read the countless comments ridiculing SI for its practice.
One has to imagine app usage was significantly lower than what SI was+ hoping for, and it has now switched to a free model for print subscribers – smart move.
It took a while for it to become available, but the SI app delivers a much friendlier, much more attractive experience than does ESPN.
Part of it is purely a function of the footprint of the print version – it fits nicely onto the iPad, whereas the oversized ESPN takes up several screens for each print page, which leaves an awful lot of white space in many articles and creates a very cold and unsatisfying experience.
SI provides friendly navigation controls at the bottom of the screen, allowing readers to quickly return to the cover, the table of contents, a scrolling end-to-end display of the issue, and even a link to SI’s online news and scores (though the MLB scoreboard didn’t seem to be working correctly). ESPN’s navigation isn’t nearly as intuitive and takes a while to figure out – but it does offer a nice secondary scoreboard app, ScoreCenter.
SI has also added some interactive elements to its e-issues, again creating a more enjoyable experience. On its Faces in the Crowd section, which highlights a selection of amateur athletes each issue, it allows readers to tap each athlete’s image, triggering the associated copy at the bottom of the page (see image below).
SI started off on the wrong foot, adopting an all-paid model initially, but now that it has stepped back from that approach, it has brought a rich, electronic experience to its subscribers – on that other publications would do well to emulate.
Personally, I still prefer the feel of print, but having the electronic edition at least lets me go back and look at the images from UConn’s NCAA basketball championship run anywhere I am. As much as I love gadgets and technology, this is one space where I’m still old fashioned, and perhaps will be until I am forced to change. But, when I do, I know one publication that has done wonderful work with its electronic edition, which comes as close to the feel of print as any electronic document I’ve seen.
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