Mag+ on Retina iPads and File Size


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One of the creators of the Mag+ platform for publishing content in the form of magazine-like tablet apps has some thoughts on the new iPad and the file size implications of its high-definition screen. This is in response to some speculation that when Retina-optimized magazine apps hit the market, the file size of these already bandwidth-hungry apps will balloon even further. The writer argues:

“I don’t believe people actually give a flying frog about file size — they care about value.”

Personally, the only tablet magazine app that I still use with any regularity is The New Yorker’s iPad app. As I’ve said before, I only download it to read the text and could care less about whatever value-add that its enormous download size is supposedly delivering. I’ve also said many times before that I believe most people don’t care about the value-add, that they would be just as happy to get a plain text version of the content without all of the design fussiness that these apps seem to think is indispensable. In fact, I would prefer a plainer version of the content, as I can’t tell you how often its heavy download demands have proved to be inconvenient; few things are as irritating as trying to get out the door in the morning when this app is leisurely downloading superfluous ads that I could care less about.

That said, Mag+ is essentially right that file size does not matter — or at least that it will matter less in the long-term. Eventually we will get enough bandwidth so that we can download the 150 megabytes or more that these apps ask us to retrieve. Though what I fear is that when we have that capacity, publishers will be asking us to download gigabytes per issue; this is after all an industry that cannot resist imposing greater and greater demands on its users in order to impress itself.

Read the full blog post here.



  1. Sure, sizes will go up if everything else stays the same.

    But it seems like the way a lot of the magazines are being brought over to the iPad is not exactly the best technical solution – some of them are just a bunch of gigantic images (so you can zoom in) including the text portions.

    A reasonable web designer should know that you should be able to pack up a magazine much more efficiently.

    (I don’t include music and video in this, though, those are big no matter what. But do we need them?)

  2. Ha! This is just an excuse to continue with poor magazine app design. The bulk of a magazine is text, so magazines should be no bigger than web pages, but because publishers insist on pushing content as pixels, they end up with a large, unwieldy, and frankly, unusable product that has none of the advantages of paper and all of its disadvantages. A few are doing it right: National Geographic and Once – but anything on Zinio is using the wrong model. Dear publishers: please grow up. Get with the times. That’s how you create value.

  3. While I might concede that over the long term file size may be less of an issue, I’m obviously on record as saying it does in fact matter very much *right now*. The early testing is clearly producing issues that are multiples of their current (already very large) sizes, which have the clear potential to collide with the limits of a user’s available storage, making workarounds necessary.

    That said, the intent of my original post wasn’t actually to focus on file size, but to point out that publishers should be taking a hard look at the value of what they’re stuffing into these issues, to say nothing of the production methods and technology they’re using to do it with.

  4. Having done some design work with Mag+, I’m not surprised at all by this reaction. Their app development suite is rigidly set in the past, based on Illustrator and WYSIWYG and ignores all the potential a designer for the web can bring to the iPad.

    In this regard, their directory files are bloated and exporting, rendering, previewing, and ultimately employing magazine apps created with Mag+ is incredibly time and space ineffective. Of course they’re defending that size doesn’t matter, they are not able to deliver higher quality pages at lower file sizes.

    Furthermore, it seems naive that size won’t matter in the future simply because bandwidth may increase. Do you think a company like Apple is satisfied with the weight of their laptops or the battery life of iPads? Of course not, they’re going to keep innovating. Being able to fit more into a smaller container (be it the energy in a battery, storage space in a flash memory, or content in a file) is incredibly important in delivery better and better consumer experiences for both hardware, software, and the content we produce that exists on these platforms.

    (in size, weight, footprint,

  5. As an owner of all 3 versions of the iPad, and a buyer of numerous magazines on iOS via Apple’s Newstand, Amazon’s Kindle app and the Zinio magazine app I can say I completely disagree with your stance that people don’t care about the visuals, or the value add… they just want plain text content.

    If you want plain text content then read a book or a newspaper. Magazines are about visuals.

    I read magazines for the content, sure. But I also read magazines for the visuals. The design. The beautiful photos. The content blended with the imagery.

    I’m perfectly happy with magazines on the iPad being ports of the actual print magazine because that is what I want… I want the print magazine without the print.

    I’ve seen many people complain the magazines on tablet devices are simply ports of print magazines. I say… that’s exactly the point! Expecting every magazine to be able to produce a completely interactive magazine every month is absurd.

  6. Hi – I’m the author of the post that Khoi referenced in the post, and the head of product for Mag+. Just want to correct a couple of things that have come up here:
    Our system is actually not based on Illustrator, it’s based on InDesign, the tool used by tens of thousands of designers to create content. But we also support the embedding of HTML in issues created on Mag+, and we see among our clients a mix of web and print designers using the tools. We’re not a pure Web design solution, as there are lots of other tools for doing that and the browser can render that well. We see our niche as a toolset that lets designers create pixel-perfect issue-based apps. And we’ve heard pretty consistently that we’re actually much quicker and easier than competing InDesign-based solutions. If you haven’t looked at the system lately, I encourage you to check them out – the tools are totally free at

    We’re not saying that issue-based image-based rendering is the only way to do it, or in many cases, even the best – we’re just one way to go and many of our clients, whether print mags or original digital publications (this is one of our favorites: link), are having success using this approach, but also do PDF-replicas on Zinio and pure text Kindle editions and we think that’s great. There definitely are limitations to our approach, and our roadmap will absolutely focus on additional ways to create and export content, whether it’s pure HTML or even a Readability-like function inside the fully designed apps to get that pure text if people want it.

    Also, totally agree that both Once and NatGeo are great apps, but worth noting both are built on image-based platforms like ours (Woodwing and Adobe DPS, respectively). We’re also big fans of Katachi, and for pure HTML mags, #5 Magazine is nice (though still a big download because of all the embedded video).

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