After discovering how to create a US iTunes account (incredibly easy when you know how), I’ve been able to install iBooks on my iPad, and try the ePub output from SmallNews on it.
It looks good, in both portrait and landscape modes:
The table of contents isn’t quite right. The TOC created by SmallNews 2.01 has all the titles blank. I believe this is a bug in iBooks. I’ve been able to work around it, but only in a way that is likely to mess it up for other readers, so I will need to take a little time to work out the right format for it to work on everything. iBooks also seems to ignore the different levels of the TOC – it puts the headings and sub-headings at the same level. I think this is another bug.
So, a little bit of work to do before a proper release, but if anyone desperately wants the fix, let me know.
I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to get an iPad while visiting California on a business trip. So I’ve been trying SmallNews output on it. The best format to use ought to be epub, as this is what the new iBooks application supports. But unfortunately, I’ve not been able to install that as the iPad App Store currently only supports US accounts, and I only have a UK one.
So in the meantime, I’ve been e-mail the PDF versions to myself to see what those look like. Neither the full PDF or the eBook version looks quite right – the full version looks too small (see below), and the eBook version too big. Not surprising really, as the screen size is somewhere between a typical eBook reader and an A4 page.
So, for the moment, I’ve made a minor change to the eBook version, to change the page size, and use 2 columns.
This feels just the right size for the iPad screen.
What this tells me is that I ought to change SmallNews so that instead of picking which of an ever-increasing list of sizes should be created, the page size, number of columns and font size of the PDF versions should be configurable directly.
I still think epub will end up being the best approach, but PDF provides a useful alternative, so I will continue to support it.
The Times announced yesterday that the long-anticipated “paywall” around it’s online content will start from June. Fairly obviously, this will almost certainly stop SmallNews from getting content from The Times, so when that happens, I will drop support for this. Personally, I won’t miss it; I don’t believe there’s anything in The Times that can’t be got elsewhere. So I’m inclined to agree with Jeff Jarvis’s description of this as pathetic.
More positively, I’m expecting the Apple iPad to be a great way of reading newspapers. Luckily, I will be in California a week after the launch, so hope to get one before they’re available in Europe. I will then make adapting SmallNews to work well on the iPad a top priority. I’m hoping that nothing much will need to be done, as the ePub version should already work. But a little bit of tweaking may be required.