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Tablets are waiting for their Movable Type (37signals.com)
48 points by dmishe 1581 days ago | hide | past | web | 28 comments | favorite

Tablets already have their Movable Type. It's called... Movable Type. I understand that the current fad is to go back to native, from HTML5, but for very content-centric app (i.e. one designed to make text easy to read), it makes sense to write it as a webapp. You're not transferring massive amounts of data. You're not dealing with the same level of interactivity requirements as, say, a game. Your job is to display text in a clear, easy-to-read fashion. I think this is something that mobile browsers can already do quite well. There's no reason to reinvent the wheel with a native app, when we can build on Movable Type (or some other blogging platform) to make it more mobile friendly.

I agree with this in almost every regard. I really don't like the drift towards sandboxed apps where HTML will do just as (or more) nicely.

But: money.

Solve subscriptions. This is what the apps do. Adobe DPS, which I mention below, is so totally geared to creating paid subscription content.

The Readability fiasco was unfortunate since I'd like to see other non-ad based approaches to paying open content publishers/creators. Unfortunately, no one on the vested interest side of the fence (including Apple) has any real motivation to solve for this.

I don't see how apps solve subscription any more than a (paid-access) website. In fact, thanks to Apple's draconian 30% cut of all in-app purchases, it can be argued that apps are worse, when it comes to subscriptions. At least when you're serving content through the browser you're not automatically losing 30% of your revenue.

1 tap (or 2) purchasing and lots of accounts with credit cards attached

The job is not just "display text", it is to match the UX of the other newsstand apps:

+ Background Updating

+ Push Notifications

+ Works offline, always

+ Doesn't go down when your server does

+ Subscriptions without a credit card.

I think all of these are something that mobile browsers can't do at all.

Actually, to publish a magazine style app you don't need to be very technically capable. Adobe Digital Publishing Suite is a surprisingly capable tool and can spit out newsstand/iOS compliant apps. A lot of large/legacy publishers with teams used to an InDesign workflow use it.


It can be clunky in places and I've seen terrible magazine apps created with it, but that can be said for native apps as well. There is the Adobe creative cloud price to factor in, but if you are doing anything with creative cloud already, you have access to this.

As for actually getting into the actual iOS newsstand as a magazine, that I'm not clear about. I have the impression that Apple has tight relationships with legacy magazine publishers and gives them priority.

DPS pricing is ridiculous. Completely untenable for small publishers. Not only do you have to pay to use the software, you have to pay to publish each issue with them, and then pay when someone re-downloads a file, which happens often because Newsstand is built that way. You don't control your code, and you can't take your magazine anywhere else without re-creating it. If you ask me, its a steaming pile of dung. If you're a small publisher, I ask that you please take a look at Baker, an open source framework for publishing magazines on the iPad. We use it (but are not the people behind it) and we love it. The newest version supports free Newsstand apps.

It used to be ridiculous. It's now downgraded to merely comical. I'd check out the link above, but my understanding is that you don't have to pay to publish an app. You might be referring to just publishing strictly to the newstand, though. In that case there are both "multi-folio" and "single-folio" options.

I think the bigger issue, besides pricing, is content lock-in, as you note. I've seen some other systems (not Baker, I'll check that out) that offer "free" app wrappers for magazine style content but tightly control the creation process as a lock in mechanism (and I'm not even referring to Apple here).

Curious: are you actually publishing to newsstand or standard apps? I'm wondering what the barrier to entry to the newsstand is in terms of approval vs. apps. At least with ebooks, it gets weird quickly on Apple's end (long long approval times for independent publishers unless you go through an "approved" broker, etc.).

Newsstand apps use the same approval process as regular apps, there are no barriers to entry except figuring out how to code for Newsstand. Once you go Newsstand your "content" no longer needs to go through any Apple approval process. You just publish content any time you like, and a Newsstand App updates automatically. The only thing that needs to be approved is changes to your code. Overall though, Newsstand is not very well explained in Apple's documentation, and paid subscriptions are a mess.

We publish a standard app at the moment, because Baker did not support Newsstand until a short time ago. We will be updating in the next week or so.

DPS pricing is still bad. Single edition only gets you one issue. One freaking issue! You need to upgrade to professional ($495 per month!) or above to publish multiple issues, and then pay $.30 every time someone downloads one of your issues. Compare that to setting up Baker (free) and setting up Amazon S3 free account (15GB data out per month) and DPS looks like a total scam.

Considering the recent publishing-related posts coming out of 37s, along with Jason's teasing announcement of a new product (and their history of building up hype leading up to a product launch), I put good money that their product will be a publishing app/service.

This. The idea is so good I was ready to "drop everything and do it" but I can smell from the post that 37s is about to release the service they're asking for and would blow me out of the water.

Not really. Their last product (sortfolio) did not really do that well:


They do have a good reach and that will definitely help them, but the tablet market is now big enough for multiple players.

If you publish through Kindle it works everywhere, you don't have to do anything but upload a Word or HTML document, and you get paid regularly.

I recently researched tools that are designed to help people make book or magazine apps (mobile apps). There are many options. I decided to share my findings here:


Please add a link the Baker Framework (its not linked, but its a great resource) http://bakerframework.com/

Thanks! I also added Pugpig, which is similar but can also publish to Android.


Everyone had a web browser. Not that many people have access to the Apple store thing. Maybe if it was more universal.

RSS didn't fail because it was too nerdy, it was systematically shunned because it has no DRM.

Systems like newsstand and Google currents seem nice because of their ui/ux, but that's only because its so hard to compete with such giants that have relationships with giant content creators who want surgical grade DRM.

people are rediscovering RSS , what people need is good RSS reader softwares, not the usual crap out there , people need to understand things like ping-backs , get a server somewhere and they will never need facebook or twitter anymore.

Baker Project is so far the closest I've seen.

This is what we use and we love it. The guys behind it do a lot of hard work and the newest version supports free Newsstand subscriptions. https://github.com/simbul/baker

Pugpig seems similar to Baker:


This is a conflation of the idea of a desire to publish, with the theory that that publishing must be de facto available on any platform in it's native format. In the same way that we don't need desktop apps for reading a blog, or a website, or anything else, we don't need a tablet or phone app either.

In this case, a website works perfectly well, with the advantages of being searchable and sharable in far more granular and broader formats than an app, thanks to the likes of Google, likes/retweets etc.

>This is a conflation of the idea of a desire to publish, with the theory that that publishing must be de facto available on any platform in it's native format.

No, it's a conflation of the desire to publish with the desire to target the best electronic devices for reading (tablets), with the best format for _each_ platform (native), with easy 1-click access to monetization (already stored credit cards and people known to buy things).

None of the above are solved by a website.

And much less it solves stuff like background updates, large volumes of data and pictures being readable offline, etc.

Glad to see two big dogs from 37Signals calling for this a day apart from each other. www.pen.fm is actually moving straight into this direction as a platform to allow self-publishing of all sorts of mediums. Super-clean and perfect conversion is a hassle, but if we can track/mark each component to begin, everything regarding styles and rendering becomes so much easier to control. Currently we're on stories and going into manuals, but I can see magazines being the next hit. :)

What would such an app provide, compared to a normal ebook? I guess the point is simply to be able to get paid via the app store? If so, it seems the wrong solution to me, the app store should change instead of people having to create clunky, temporary workarounds.

Google Currents?

The only problem here is the review process, you probably can sell customized binaries, but still have to wait

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