The first problem with the publishers’ fantasy, which I realized only when I spent some time with my iPad over the past week, is that you don’t need those cute little apps to read newspapers and magazines. On the tiny iPhone screen, apps bring real advantages. The iPad display, by contrast, is big, bright, and beautiful. The Safari browser is a great way to read any publication on the device, as long as you have a good Wi-Fi connection.
Those exorbitantly priced first-gen iPad apps offered by magazines like Vanity Fair and Time are attempts to revive the anachronism of turning pages. They’re claustrophobic walled gardens within Apple’s walled garden, lacking the basic functionality we now expect with electronic journalism: commenting, the integration of social media, or even the most basic links to other sources. Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media, brutally describes them as “a step back to the era of CD-ROMs.”