If you’d like a glimpse of the magazine’s future, I have two words for you: Next Issue.
It’s a new Android tablet app that does for magazines what Netflix has done for video. The free app (current version, 220.127.116.117) gives you unlimited access to 27 (and counting) popular titles for $10 a month. You can download and read tablet-friendly versions of Esquire, Condé Nast Traveler, Essence, Fortune, Car and Driver, and Vanity Fair. If you opt for the Premium $15 monthly plan, you can also get Entertainment Weekly, People, Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker, and Time.
Unlike some magazine reading apps, these titles aren’t simply flat, scanned versions of print issues. For example, with a tap on the cover of the April Esquire, everyone’s favorite bombshell Sofia Vergara (from “Modern Family”) appears via video to say hello. And then the text of the magazine’s cover briefly switches from English to Spanish. Is all that truly necessary? No, but it’s fun, and it signals that this isn’t your ordinary print issue.
On occasion, some interactive features went nowhere. Case in point: When I clicked (multiple times) to submit an answer to Condé Nast Traveler’s “Where Are You?’ contest, I got nothing more than a blank screen.
Magazines downloaded quickly on my home Wi-Fi network, and you can start reading them before the download is complete. Navigation is intuitive. Tap the screen and a nav bar runs along the bottom of the screen.
You can try the service free for 30 days. After that, your credit card (which you must enter during sign up) will be charged. Also, you’re not limited to just downloading current issues. For now at least, you can download back issues dating back to January 2012.
So what’s not to love? It’s possible your tablet is incompatible with the app, which requires Android 3.0 or greater and tablets with a screen resolution of 1024 x 600 or 1280 x 800 pixels. And a few reviewers have complained that fonts didn’t render well on their tablets, though I experienced no such problem.
I know what you’re thinking: Why limit this app to Android tablets (which no one but tech reviewers seem to own)? Not to fear, the developers say they’re planning an iPad version in the next month or so.
As for the future of magazines, Next Issue is collaboration between five top magazine publishers.
Clearly, they understand where we’re heading as a reading public. They get the concept of making magazines come alive on a tablet, as opposed to just offering a paperless reading experience. And they know that when you have a sexy photo of Sofia Vergara on your cover, you better have video of her, too.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.