Publishers downplay new iPad's impact on file sizes
The size of digital magazine apps is once again a hot topic, thanks to the recent release of Apple's new iPad and its high-resolution retina display. Creating high-def video and images that take advantage of the new display could quickly bloat iPad apps, leading to lengthy downloads and storage crunches.
Publishers, for their part, are downplaying any negative impact of optimizing for the new iPad. Increases in file sizes will be minor, they contend. More importantly, they argue, the presentation improvements are well worth a few extra megabytes.
Condé Nast this week released HD-optimized versions of three titles: Wired, Condé Nast Traveler and GQ, which join the new Vogue app that Condé released earlier this month. Optimized versions of Condé's eight other digital editions will be available by the end of April, spokeswoman Susan Portnoy said.
The Vogue app weighs in at 408 megabytes on the new iPad but less than 300 megabytes on the iPad 2, according to Mashable. While Condé is sensitive to the size issue, Portnoy said the company has had few complaints about file sizes from its readers. At this point, Condé feels it's more important to incorporate functionality such as dual orientation, rich media and a full array of advertising - even if that bumps up file sizes.
"For us, it's about the consumer experience," Portnoy said.
Content looks 'amazing'
Gregg Hano, SVP of corporate sales and the Technology Group at Bonnier, which publishes Popular Science and Popular Photography, echoed those comments. "Overall, we're thrilled for the new devices, which make our content--especially our photo books--look amazing," Hano said in an email. "We think consumers will be really pleased with the new issues."
Hano said new retina-compatible tools and a reader will be available early next week from Mag+, the tablet publishing platform that Bonnier spun off last year. A test issue of Popular Science built with the new tools and incorporating higher-resolution images increased the file size from 209 to 330 megabytes.
"That's less than a 2x increase despite four times the pixels," Hano said, "so we don't anticipate too much negative feedback from users."
The system will also automatically serve the right version to the right device, so iPad2 owners won't be downloading extra megabytes, Hano added.
Texterity is also updating its app publishing platform for the new iPad, with retina support due in May. Images used for the new display will be about 50 percent larger than iPad 2 images, which will increase download sizes by about 25 percent, according to Texterity President Martin Hensel. The replicas that Texterity produces are already relatively lightweight compared with competitive offerings - Hensel claims they're about one-fifth the size of publications created with Adobe's DPS, for example.
"We think we can up the quality without sacrificing much at all on the download front," Hensel said in an email.
Adobe recommends PDF output
Condé Nast, which uses Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite, did take one important step to keep its apps reasonably sized: It switched to PDF output from the PNG format it has been using for its digital editions. Adobe has recommended the change to its customers.
Lynly Schambers-Lenox, Adobe's group product marketing manager for digital publishing, admitted that file size will "be an issue for a while" with the new iPad. "There are going to be some challenges," she said in an interview.
PDF output provides the best short-term fix, while HTML is the best long-term option for managing file sizes, Schambers-Lenox said. She cited Adobe's recently published best practices document for tablet publishing on the new iPad, which states: "PDF allows readers and customers the best experience overall on the new iPad in terms of quality of design and readability as well as performance and memory management."
The document also breaks down the pros and cons for each output format supported within Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite:
• PNG. The PNG format allows for precise pixel display for beautiful resolution and rapid loading on iOS. However, it also results in large file sizes.
• JPG. The JPG format delivers a small file size for quicker folio downloads, but can result in aliased type. It also typically uses twice the RAM as a PNG-based folio on iOS.
• PDF. The PDF format also delivers small file sizes. Because PDF is based on vector graphic formats is displays crisp and beautiful text, however can be slower to load on device.
• HTML. The HTML format results in very small files size which delivers average content fidelity but can also be slow to load. Using HTML also requires that you think about the experience if the user is reading offline.