Home How Open Source Can Help Digital Magazines Proliferate

How Open Source Can Help Digital Magazines Proliferate

The Web may have opened up and democratized the once top-heavy world of publishing, but the next frontier in digital publications is still young. While anybody can master the tools needed to publish a blog, putting out a rich, magazine-like digital publication for tablets is still cost prohibitive for some.

The folks behind Letter to Jane, an arts magazine for the iPad, are well aware of these challenges. They are not only using KickStarter to help raise funds to produce their next issue, but they’re open sourcing the code behind it, offering backers the ability to create their own magazines in the future.

Systems like Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) can be used to build some impressive, deeply interactive tablet publications. But the cost of such solutions can be out of reach for smaller, independent publishers. They can also impose some technical and design limitations that are not present when one is coding from scratch.

For those would-be publishers who want to get started with iPad development, Letter to Jane creator Tim Moore is giving away the XCode project files to anybody who donates to cover the production costs of his next issue.

“I decided to give away the source code to donors, targeted towards those kinds of designers who like myself, really want to do something native, but are having a hard time getting started,” Moore said.

Some Coding Required

This is far from a drag-and-drop, WYSIWYG app-building tool, as Moore is quick to point out. He’s literally handing over the raw code, which is marked up with comments describing which lines of code do what. That code includes basic functionality such as animations and transitions, playing back video and audio files, and social sharing of content. Those using it to build new publications are responsible for getting their own content and designs into it, as well as any additional functionality they may want. Even the most simple reworking of Moore’s work will require a working knowledge of iOS development and an Apple developer account.

It’s also worth noting that the finished product will not be a dynamically-updated news app or Conde Nast-style magazine that sits in Newsstand is updated with new content automatically. Each new issue is its own stand-alone application. That may be a deal-killer for some wanting to get into tablet publishing, but for anybody with a small budget and a desire to get started, this approach isn’t a bad way to do, and it has the advantage of honing one’s iOS development chops along the way.

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