Bonnier and BERG reimagine e-mags with Mag+

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Yet another magazine publisher is circulating a digital magazine prototype and, the latest entrant, Sweden's Bonnier, has brought two bleeding-edge interaction design shops into the conversation.

Bonnier, with London-based studio BERG, has launched a video prototype of a digital magazine touch tablet, Mag+, following Time Inc's Sports Illustrated concept earlier this month and Conde Nast's release of what Wired magazine would look like on Apple's yet-to-be-released iTablet.

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

The video illustrates how magazines like Bonnier's Popular Science can be reformatted for a handheld Kindle-sized touch screen. In contrast to previous e-mag prototypes, Mag+ eschews the flick page turning for the scroll reading that's standard online. The prototype also includes different gestures for browsing photos and copy—flick horizontally for photos and scroll vertically for copy—as well as embedded search, cut, paste and share features.

Interaction design firm Kicker Studio in San Francisco will create a physical prototype of Mag+ in the next several months. Bonnier research and development is leading the project. On Bonnier's Beta Lab blog, the research arm says it aims to preserve the copy and imagery standards of print magazines in the digital form, rather than duplicating PDF or blog or reading experiences.

"The concept aims to capture the essence of magazine reading, which people have been enjoying for decades," wrote Björn Jeffery on the blog. "The concept uses the power of digital media to create a rich and meaningful experience, while maintaining the relaxed and curated features of printed magazines." Bonnier was not available for further comment.

Both design studios are focusing on both how and why people read magazines, as well as their editorial processes so translating content into digital formats won't mean entirely new work flows or teams. "We're focusing on creating relaxing reading experiences like with physical magazines that don't feel like the web or an app," said Matt Jones, design director at BERG. "We're also considering production processes and editorial processes and looking at how we can convert assets into the digital form."

Bonnier is preparing for hardware releases like Apple's iTablet. With Mag+ in development now, Sara Öhrvall, svp, Bonnier R&D, hopes to have a digital magazine format ready for market when full-color touch tablets drop in the next year or two. "We need to define the product before we can worry abut where to sell it and what device to put it on," said Ms. Öhrvall.

"We'll be taking a closer look at content and the other things in magazines as well, like advertising and shorter form content," said Jennifer Bove, principal and cofounder of Kicker Studio. "There are lots of things that are important to readers about magazines." For ads, Ms. Bove said Kicker is examining how Mag+ advertising can mesh norms from ads online, like interactivity, and in print, like placement and adjacency.

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