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Making your own iPad magazine

Mel Martin

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A lot of publications are adding iPads and other portable devices to their distribution chains. As a result, we're beginning to see some solutions for small- and medium-sized companies that are starting to approach the idea of offering a self-publishing solution. You can always send people a PDF, but that's really not a magazine, and it won't show up in the App Store.

One interesting product is from some former Apple employees who have started MagAppZine. You submit a PDF, and the company quickly converts it to a magazine and submits it to the App Store for you. You can see some customer examples in the App Store here.

Using MagAppZine is not inexpensive, but it's far cheaper than hiring a programmer and managing an App Store submission. Costs are about US$3000 for a magazine, plus charges each time you add a new issue. You get to keep 75% of the revenue if your magazine is a paid creation, MagAppZine gets 25%. That's after the Apple's 30% cut. Naturally, MagAppZine can't guarantee that your app won't get rejected from the App Store, so customers need to understand Apple's rules on content.

Submitting a PDF for conversion is all done online in a web-based form. It's easy to do, and the instructions are clear and direct (you can view some sample screens below). I talked with company co-founder Jeff Soto, who told me the company is small, with just 10 clients so far. Magazines can be turned around in 15-20 minutes. Video and audio can't be embedded yet, but it is coming along with in-magazine search functionality.

You do have other options for self-publishing, varying from cheap and DIY to expensive and high-powered. Adobe has captured the high end with pricey and complex extensions to Creative Suite and InDesign. More than 200 large publications, like the Wired iPad edition (current issue free this month), use the powerful Adobe tools.

PixelMags is another solution, but it's not designed for really small publications; PixelMags has produced products for Pottery Barn and AutoWeek, just to name a couple. We've asked PixelMags for pricing details, but we've heard nothing back.

Meanwhile, Al Gore has funded a startup called Push Pop Press that hopes to compete with Adobe, featuring tools that are much easier to use. It seems to be aimed at book publishing, but should work well for magazines.

On the low end there is Laker, an interesting collection of free tools from Florian Franke that guides you through using HTML5 to build a magazine for any iOS device. Using the tools requires knowledge of HTML and CSS, plus you will need Apple's Xcode development tools to compile the source files into an app. Franke built his toolset atop the existing template/app project Baker and added some navigation and table-of-contents improvements.

This whole area of self-publishing is simply going to explode in the years to come. It's good to see prices being driven down, if only a bit, and there is a lot of room for creative and driven programmers to rise to the occasion.

Below, you can see a couple of screenshots of how MagAppZine looks.

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