So you did it — you wandered into the Newsstand section and fell face-first into the glorious world of digital magazines. Oh, how beautiful! Look at that clever transition! That embedded how-to video! That stunning, full page photo story! You want to make one too, right?
You’re not alone. The rise of tablets has brought with it a new avenue for publishing: digital magazines. Many existing print publications are looking for the best route to keep existing readers interested and find new ones, while the fact that you now don’t need your own printing press and half a forest worth of paper has opened doors for digital-only magazines. While the digital downloads may seem small compared to previous print numbers, it is a growing market with digital magazine subscriptions often beating out their print counterparts.
If you’re looking into making your own magazine and don’t have the resources to get a developer to design a custom app for you, chances are you will be faced with a question: how do you get your lovely publication into the hands of adoring readers?
Here are some options:
The grand-daddy of digital publishing, DPS is a designer’s dream: you can create rich, interactive, beautiful digital magazines with the same program you’ve been using for years. With an extra panel in InDesign, you can add everything from slideshows to panoramas, easily flip orientations and create a publication for multiple devices and screen sizes.
You can preview and test it before publishing it directly to standalone apps in pretty much every platform you’d want – from Apple’s App Store to Google Play and even Amazon’s devices. It’s the software used by popular titles like National Geographic and Top Gear, and is a relatively easy option if your designer is already familiar with the Adobe family.
The downside? It is probably out of your price range — so much so that Adobe doesn’t list the prices on its website (you have to request a consultation from a local agent). But if you’d like to create a magazine with multiple editions, you’re looking at pricing upwards of US$4 800 per year, with additional costs once your app has passed a certain number of included downloads.
Often referred to as ‘DPS but half the price’, Twixl Publisher is an InDesign plugin that lets you ad an interactive layer over your digital magazines, which you can then publish as multi-issue apps to Apple, Android and Amazon tablets. You can download a free trial to test before you commit to the full version, and even preview and test out your apps to see if they work.
This option is includes a lot of DPS-like features, but a multi-folio app (an app that includes multiple editions of your magazine) costs around US$2400 a year, with (reduced) additional download costs which only kick in after your magazine has been downloaded more than 5000 times.
With more than 80-million users, Issuu is a go-to source to host and find digital publications. This is a PDF-based system, which means you simply upload your magazine and then copy that embed code or custom link wherever you choose to share it. Issuu is available on desktop and Android (an iOS app is in progress) and your magazine will be an option for the platform’s millions of users to read.
It’s also free — but the paid options (US$30 and US$40 per month) give you the ability to customise your reader, access analytics, add social elements and logos, and work it into your existing website. You don’t get your own app or the ability to add in interactive elements like sound, transitions and videos, but you do get to tap into an existing user base.
If you’re looking for something to create interactive digital magazines but don’t want to (or can’t) hand over half of the contents of your bank account, Joomag is a good option. It’s a platform that allows you to either upload a PDF design or create your own interactive version using easy templates and their web-based editor.
Once you’re done, Joomag will create a custom page for you to host your creation, which you can also embed on your website or read on mobile devices (it automatically scales your publication for different screen sizes).
While you don’t get a custom app, Joomag is offering quite a lot for free users — like analytics and the ability to include video, audio and links — although your magazine won’t be ad-free. If you size up to Silver, Gold or Platinum, you get an ad-free version with added functionality like the ability to sell paid-for subscriptions, publish to Joomag’s iPad app, add HTML5 elements, and have your magazine optimised for Android, iOS and Windows 8, for upwards of US$15.95 per month.
iPad fan? You should look at Prss. The service, which is used by publications like The Next Web’s Shift, is a web-based editor which allows you to create magazines from scratch (or using your own templates) and collaborate with up to 30 team members.
It has built-in analytics, is designed to make switching from portrait to landscape smooth and efficient and allows you to create a custom iPad app to host your publication. Sorry, there’s no Android support.
PressPad takes your PDFs and makes them into a standalone app for Android and iPad, with minimal stress from your side. It works off a slightly different business model — it’s free to use, but the team keeps the first $299 per month that your app earns. If you make nothing, you pay nothing.
You are allowed to create an unlimited amount of issues and there are no restrictions on the number of downloads, although your app will not have any interactive functionality (considering the fact that it is PDF-based). The PressPad basically takes care of the process – you upload your PDFs and get an app. Poof!
Snapplify is a digital publishing solution which allows you to upload PDFs (or add custom HTML5 code, videos, etc), which it then puts on the app stores for you. Depending on what pricing tier you go for, you can charge for subscriptions, access your subscriber’s details, view analytics, and sell your magazine from a branded, customised storefront.
It’s available on Android and iOS (phones and tablets) and scales your content to fit the device (so it doesn’t format for the screen size so much as resizes). Pricing ranges from US$100 to US$1250 per month, depending on your needs.
With more than 17-million users, Magzter is a massive cross-platform newsstand featuring a broad range of magazine titles — from Men’s Health to ELLE. While you don’t get your own custom magazine app, signing up as a Magzter publisher allows you to put your magazine in their store, which is available on every platform you can think of — from Android and iOS to Windows 8, Kindle, the Apple Newsstand and even a desktop site.
While it is free to use, Magzter makes money through revenue share with publishers if you’d like to charge for your magazine. It provides analytics, allows you to add interactive content in its web editor or simply upload a PDF, and gives you customer download information (such as location and device).
Mag+ is an InDesign plugin that allows you to create your own interactive magazine app without having to code your way there. Using the plugin, you can add interactive features like sound, video and online content to your design, then push it to a preview app to test out your creation. Once that’s done, you head to its online counterpart to push your app to the app stores (Amazon, Apple, Android and Apple Newsstand).
It offers a free download of the plugin, only requiring you to part with your cash when you’re ready to publish that magazine. There are a few different pricing options depending on your needs — for example, if you want to pay as you publish, you’re looking at US$999 an issue. If you’d prefer one app with unlimited publishing, it’s US$499 per month. There is also a charge for hosting your content, so factor that in.
Note: this is by no means an exhaustive list, and there could be other options out there depending on your region and requirements.