The iPad’s Retina Display Spells The End For Bloated Magazine Apps

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The iPad's new Retina Display could spell doom for already-bloated magazine apps
The iPad's new Retina Display could spell doom for already-bloated magazine apps

The iPad’s new Retina display is going to look fantastic. Reading text, for instance, is going to be like reading text in a real magazine, only brighter. This is great news for us, the readers, but not so good for the designers and publishers. Why not? Because many iPad magazines use bitmap images to make their pages. At normal resolution, this works out to perhaps 150-300kB per page, according to David Sleight of Stuntbox. When resized for the Retina display, that goes up to 2MB. Per page.

Because these magazine apps use PDFs and JPGs to essentially show you pictures of their pages, they’re already huge. Wired’s iPad app weighs in at up to 500MB per copy. If we apply Sleight’s numbers to this, even assuming that Wired’s pages are already at the top end, it could bloat up to around six or seven times its current size. That puts us squarely into multiple Gigabyte territory: That’s a lot to store on a 64GB device, and don’t even think about the downloads.

Obviously something will have to be done. Sleight suggests either building custom rendering and layout tools, or just using web technologies. HTML5 is perfectly capable of rendering a fancy layout, and while you’ll still have to download the images inside the magazine, at least the whole page isn’t a picture.

This would be great for users, too. Right now it’s impossible to copy or share any text from these digital magazines. Proper text would make this easy. And there are already apps out there doing it. The fantastic Guardian iPad Edition lets you copy, Tweet and even send whole articles to Instapaper. You can probably guess which is the one and only paid subscription in my Newsstand.