Barnes & Noble made a splash a few weeks ago when the latest firmware update for its best-selling NOOK Color e-reader (and low cost Android tablet in disguise) brought a slew of enhanced digital magazines. The announcement brought the number of digital magazines available to NOOK owners to 100, and included special interactive NOOK Editions that included multimedia features.
Apple has lagged behind Barnes & Noble — and most other e-bookstores for that matter — when it comes to digital editions of magazines for their iOS devices, which many people use as their primary e-reader. Yes, iPad owners have been able to subscribe to popular magazines such as Wired and National Geographic, but they haven't been able to do so through Apple's iBookstore. Lacking an authoring platform that was compatible with iBookstore requirements, publishers have been forced to sell the magazines as apps through Apple's App Store instead. Turning magazines into apps can add extra expense for publishers (among other things, there's an expectation that apps will do something besides simply be an interface for buying issues — Wired famously spent months developing its iPad app), the practice inflates the number of apps available in the App Store, apps are specific to a platform which means either additional costs or focusing on one mobile platform (committing to an iOS app means having to develop a completely different app to support Android users) and many mobile users are okay with downloading e-books, digital newspapers or digital magazines, but are reluctant to add more apps on their device.
One of the announcements made by Apple at WWDC 2011 back in June was the Newsstand feature for the soon to be released iOS 5. Newsstand is intended to be the iBookstore for digital magazines and newspapers for iPads and other iOS devices, eliminating the App Store model for digital publishing. All well and good, but the decision gained some significant support when Adobe announced a few days ago that it is adding Newsstand support to its Digital Publishing Suite. This move eliminates much of the expense of developing digital content for Apple devices. In a press release, Adobe also points out that Newsstand publication will benefit magazine publishers by pushing the latest copy of issues to subscribers and displaying current covers for better visibility:
"Publishers will be able to use Digital Publishing Suite to create files that are detected by Newsstand and automatically downloaded to the Newsstand shelf, eliminating long download times which can present a barrier to reading content on iPad devices. Applications built with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite and enabled for Newsstand will allow publishers to better merchandise their content with support for Newsstand push notifications and icon covers displayed on the Newsstand shelf, reflecting the latest issue of the magazine or newspaper."
Whle the companies have clashed over Flash on Apple's mobile devices, it appears that they're playing nice when it comes to digital magazines.