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The Mag+ from Bonnier: an eReader to replicate the magazine experience

The Swedish media house Bonnier has developed an eReader concept for magazines that has received considerable media attention (shown in the video demo below):

It seems that they actually got it right, but I can already hear the criticism from the Net camp: don’t try to replicate a dying format, single purpose gadgets will limit the infinite choice for the users and be rejected, old media is dead, an RSS feed is much better, where is the Facebook integration, where are the links, I want radio, it would be cool with console games, and on and on.

My interpretation of the video and comments from the development team is that the point of this reader is to create the visual experience of a high-end glossy lifestyle magazine.

If that’s their goal then they’re really on to something. In a world dominated by real time chatter, a firehose of information overload, trashy celeb gossip, and fast sloppy news reporting there is a growing market for the opposite niche. When you read a magazine you reach the final page, are done and feel the satisfaction of completion. That never happens with an RSS-feed.

There are plenty of people who still enjoy a calm, minimalistic aesthetic experience. A well crafted story, superb command of the written language, reflection, interesting facts, compelling arguments and beautiful photos are still appreciated.

In a magazine, the limit in size and pre-determined format force authors to focus and concentrate. This is good for both quality and creativity, just look at the strict rules in classical poetry or the 140 character limit in Twitter.

If the Mag+ is designed with stunning colors and excellent readability it will imbue the magazines you read with a sense of quality and importance that is lost on the web where everything is one click away.

Less is more; I clearly remember how I eagerly awaited the six annual issues of Harvard Business Review in the 1990s. When they doubled the number of issues, they had problems filling every issue with groundbreaking articles. Reading all the issues felt like a burden, and I remember feeling how the magic was lost.

The Mag+ reader will not prevent a blood bath among print magazines. The path of thinning editorial budgets and deteriorating craftsmanship that many magazines (and newspapers) have taken as a way of keeping profits up will be rejected by the customers.

However, around 20% of the publications have a chance at survival. The magazines that dare to go the opposite way and increase their editorial budgets can use the Mag+ reader as a distribution channel for their paying subscribers. Think of National Geographic, Nature, the Economist, Condé Nast Traveller, and Vogue as the magazines you would read on the Mag+.

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