Il blog di Antonio Tombolini

Ultima Kiosk, the digital newsstand of Simplicissimus

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Today you’ll find a new app in the iTunes App Store: Ultima Kiosk, the latest endeavor of Simplicissimus Book Farm and Kiurma. Nothing particularly revolutionary: a newsstand, where you can look for, find and buy newspapers and magazines; well-made, stable and fast reading software; a library to keep all the newspapers and magazines you’ve bought in order on your own shelves. This version for iPad is the first piece of a more complex project, aimed at making Ultima Kiosk a digital newsstand available on all platforms, and for all digital reading devices: everything from tablets (after iPad, it’ll be Android’s turn in September) to computers (via web).
We started working on Ultima Kiosk more than six months ago, when all the leading publishers were busy challenging each other to come up with the best applications, vying to see who could create the most dazzling special effects.
The cry was “iPad changes everything, you can’t repurpose what’s been done up until now, newspapers and magazines can no longer be newspapers and magazines as we know them“.
This apparently drastic approach never really convinced me: when you look for such extreme solutions, you often end up doing nothing at all and fostering status quo.
True: the transition to digital will also inevitably – in McLuhan’s terms – lead to a drastic change in the form and content of that which we now call a newspaper or magazine. And let’s be clear about this, we ourselves are seriously moving in this direction. (Have you seen JPM yet? It’s the futuristic digital photography magazine by Jumper; we already published the second issue.)
But it’s a long process, which in the meantime allows and even requires a more reformist approach, as is happening with books and ebooks. Meanwhile anyone who chooses to (also) read in digital format certainly wouldn’t spurn the same newspapers and magazines transposed and adapted to new reading devices, as long as they are well done. And it’s precisely these reading devices, like the tablets with touch interface, that draw us in this direction with the powerful metaphor of leafing through the pages, forsaking the click of the mouse for the age-old gesture of turning pages. In short: there’s a lot of room for relaunching a nearly unsustainable market (paper magazines) in digital format.
The second reason we decided to develop Ultima Kiosk, a digital newsstand that distributes magazines, is the following: Do you really think it’s reasonable that every publisher has to develop an ad hoc application on its own, with its own money, for each newspaper or magazine? How much money is wasted paying various developers to rewrite software for each application that basically always does the same things? And how many publishers can afford this approach? How can the multitude of small but prized (and even adored) specialized magazines and niche publications enter this market? Something like Ultima Kiosk is needed, a newsstand that hosts and distributes the magazines without requiring any investment from the publishers, simply in exchange for a percentage of the sales just like in “real” newsstands.
Third reason, related to the second: does it make any sense that a user has to pack his tablet desktop with thousands of icons, one for each of the thousands of magazines he decided to read, maybe even just once? And how many magazines and interesting articles will go unread because that particular magazine doesn’t have an app, or because the user simply wasn’t aware of the magazine and never searched for it? A newsstand just like Ultima Kiosk is what we need. A newsstand that displays its magazines on shelves, so a magazine I’ve never even heard of before can catch my attention if it covers something I’m interested in. A newsstand that also has an efficient search box: so I can search for all the issues of all the magazines (even those I’m not familiar with) that contain an article on a topic I’m looking for. A newsstand with the possibility to purchase even single articles taken from several magazines, for example (technically we could do it already, but we have to solve the usual licensing problems with the publishers, which we will).
Moral:

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Il blog di Antonio Tombolini