Ever since the iPad came out and food magazines began promoting their iPad editions, we've been intrigued.
As people who love printed magazines and look forward to getting them in the mailbox each month, how would we feel about the interactive food magazine experience? Would we want to ditch our paper for pixels? Swap our Post-Its for screenshots?
Well, we recently joined the legions of iPad owners, and we've had a chance to download a few magazines and play around with them. For those of you who haven't yet experienced this (or who perhaps have iPads but were debating whether or not to buy magazines) perhaps our experience will help you make up your mind.
Let's start with our favorite iPad experience so far -- Martha Stewart Living.
Here are a few of our favorite things about the issue after downloading and playing with the July issue of Living.
First, the cover is, well, alive.
Here's a great video that shows you exactly what the animated iPad cover looks like, as the cookies start to pop and appear like fireworks in the sky. It's a nice way to kick off the experience. There are two other big animations like this within the magazine, to open other sections, and many smaller animated features, like a moving headline.
Other parts of the iPad edition bring Martha herself into the experience. For example, whereas the "Martha Moment" page in the magazine shows a photo and a caption from Martha, the digital version actually includes Marta reading the words herself.
We also love the navigation. A multi-page spread in the magazine becomes one lengthy scroll-down page on the iPad. Plus, the design of the layout is very intuitive. If you're reading an article, you swipe up to continue in the same article. When you're ready to move on, you swipe left. Here's a glimpse of what it looks like when you're zoomed out.
The ads are also far more engaging than their print counterparts. A series of ads for a paint brand, for instance, includes very informative videos about how to achieve certain effects with paint.
Other features also have new components on the iPad. For instance, in the "Cherries Jubilee" feature, which we loved in the print magazine, there's a beautiful video of the cherry orchard, with the farmers talking about how cherries are grown and harvested. Similarly, a video feature on a Fourth of July parade in Telluride, Colorado, takes you to the prep for that actual parade. In other features, there are additional photos, or panoramas that you can navigate.
And all the photos of food have a nice little "recipe" button in the lower right hand corner, allowing you to jump immediately to the recipe.
All in all, we'd say Martha Stewart Living comes as close to an ideal iPad app as we can envision. The navigation is great, and the additional features are thoughtful, well-crafted and fully realized. They aren't just bells and whistles -- they genuinely add to the experience you get from reading the print magazine.
Food & Wine doesn't yet offer nearly as immersive an experience as Living. On the whole, F&W's app has far fewer iPad-specific features, like videos and animation.
We do love the F&W recipe index that's at the beginning of each digital edition. (Living has a similar thing, but in the back.)
Sample recipe index page from Food & Wine
Unlike Living, the Food & Wine app allows you to share recipes out via Facebook and Twitter. And it also integrates games. In the July "Chef Issue," for instance, there's a "Signature-Dish Matching Game," where you pair famous chefs with their most famous dishes. Videos are offered as part of the "Best New Chefs" feature, where you get to hear from the chefs themselves.
The rest of the F&W app, though, reads very much like scrolling through PDFs of the magazine pages.
Cooking Light doesn't yet have a full iPad edition of the magazine, but they recently released a "Quick and Healthy Menu Maker," which allows you to build a meal by picking an entree, two sides and a dessert. The app then gives you the recipes and the nutrition information.
It's a nice way to create a meal, especially if you're stumped for what to cook -- or you've got particular ingredients you're trying to use up.
Next week, we'll check out the iPad versions of Saveur, Fine Cooking, Everyday Food and Bon Appétit.
What about you? Have you been reading any food mags on the iPad? What do you like? What could be improved?