With publishing companies looking for any possible means to increase circulation in the Internet age, e-readers are becoming a more attractive option for magazines to woo readers. Unfortunately, until recently, e-readers have provided a seriously limited mag-reading experience – nothing but black and white text, to be exact.
Fashion magazines in particular have been eager to adapt to e-readers. Interview was the first to create an application for the iPad in April. Glamour, Vogue and Women’s Health followed suit soon after. But for all its beautiful display colors, an iPad is costly — both for magazines to build apps, and for the bulk of consumers to buy.
Barnes & Noble may have come to the rescue with a simpler and more affordable option — the new version of its Nook, which boasts a full-color LCD screen. Substantially cheaper than the iPad (which can cost upwards of $829 compares to the Nook’s $249), the Nook is the only e-reader with color capability in addition to Epub compatibility. Epub, short for electronic publishing, is a standard created by the International Digital Publishing Forum that allows e-books to be read on multiple e-readers for free.
The new Nook features color – up to 16 different shades – a 7-inch touch-screen, and the usual e-reader features (full browser, content library, etc.). Its size is only a touch smaller than that of a magazine, which is usually around 8 by 11 inches. In other words, it’s about as close to an actual magazine reading experience as a digital reader can get.
Without a color screen, magazines on e-readers are just a “gray, lifeless mess,” says PC Mag’s Lance Ulanoff. But Barnes & Noble swears that reading on a Nook is “just like paper.” It lets users choose from six fonts (extra small to extra extra large) and has Article View, allowing readers to easily flip through pages. Using the e-reader also eliminates the accumulation of paper, a fairly environmentally-sound choice, and minimizes heft since most weigh less than one pound.
The Nook’s online newsstand already includes popular lady mags like Cosmopolitan, Elle and Marie Claire. There are 24 fashion magazines and over 1,000 possible subscriptions — divided by category from “Art & Entertainment” to “Travel” — available for purchase.
Still, the question remains: Will potential magazine readers subscribe to a digital-only magazine? (And will digital subscriptions, which cost less than paper, turn a profit for publishers?)