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Coming over to the iPad

August 13: When the iPad made its debut in May, Eliza Magazine quickly jumped on board. It made sense since the fashion rag already had an iPhone app in the market. An excited buzz surrounded the e-reader tablet’s impending launch as critics and hopefuls alike speculated whether this could be the turning point for the magazine industry.

“We got on the iPad bandwagon the moment we heard about it,” Eliza Magazine editor Summer Bellessa said in an e-mail interview. “When you are in the publishing business you can’t ignore technology, you have to play with it and see what works for you and your readers. For us, the more people that see the magazine the better, no matter what the format. Some people have found us specifically on the iPad!”

It has been three months since it finally made its way into stores and homes, and the word “iPad” still remains on the lips of journalists everywhere as publications continue to put out iPad app versions of their magazines. Publications to join the fray include Wired, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Popular Science, GQ, Dwell, Interview and Maxim. Although Condé Nast’s Gourmet magazine folded last year, it will reappear as an app for the iPad. Meanwhile, several magazine apps have been created solely for digital. Take Flipboard, for example, a magazine that integrates social media, and the traditional magazine format in an iPad app. The magazine works by drawing information from the user’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, creating a personalized magazine experience.

In September, Shelf Media Group is slated to launch Shelf, a digital-only magazine covering self-published books, small press and university press, including author interviews and photo essays. Distributed by Zinio, Shelf will be available for download on the computer, iPhone and iPad. “With the advent of the iPad, readers can experience and engage with magazines as never before,” Shelf publisher Margaret Brown said in a press release.

Then there’s Maverick, a digital magazine Virgin Mobile and Seven Squared plan to launch, which will be available only on the iPad, iPhone and eventually on Android phones. Maverick is slated to debut in October and will cover business, travel and technology. Is this the future of magazines? Many seem to think so. In an interview with Virgin, executives told Mashable more than 8 million people will own iPads by the end of the year.

“In the first nine days it was on sale, Wired’s iPad version sold almost more than its newsstand versions do in an entire month,” said Rebecca Bredholt, managing editor of magazine content for Vocus Media Research Group. “Vanity Fair’s been getting requests from their advertisers to come up with an iPad version of their magazine. Beyond just the numbers, there’s a psychological effect it’s having on the magazine industry: It’s a tangible wake up call to both editorial and business development staffs that the future is here now, employ its potential!”

But the iPad has its negatives. Bredholt acknowledges the iPad is a great platform for visual components, but believes it comes up short for long-form journalism. “I feel like the technology frees the imagination for storytellers, but it also limits the reader’s imagination,” she said. “I think people drop it because they get tired of looking at that screen for too long when it’s just black and white text.”

The future of the iPad remains to be seen, but a forecast from private-equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson says spending on media and communications is expected to grow through 2014 as consumers recover from the recession and start buying up Internet and mobile devices.

This may be good news for publishers who are depending on e-reading tablets and mobile devices to keep the industry alive. “Anytime we have people talking about a new way to access information and getting excited about it, is a win for us,” Bellessa said. “No one knows exactly where publishing is headed, but it looks like the iPad will be part of the destination.”

–Katrina M. Mendolera

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