Hands On: Google Launches Magazines Into A Newsstand Cloud

MoBlog2At the Google I/O conference this week, Big G made good on the rumor that it would launch a 7-inch tablet of its own for a $200 price point. Obviously looking to out-Kindle Amazon, Google is hoping to get some semblance of a firm installed base of the Android tablet on an optimal version of the OS. Personally, I don’t even pay attention to the silly food names Google attaches to its sweetshop of Android flavors. It ain’t sweet and it’s not a joke anymore. Only the geeks at Engadget and TechCrunch can track these iterations, let alone care to.

What the company fails to do with its own OS it is trying a bit more convincingly to do with the content it layers onto it. Also part of yesterday’s wave of announcement was the launch of the Google Play Magazines section of the app store. Mimicking the Apple Newsstand, the online shop has a sizeable catalog of major titles, since Hearst, Rodale, Bonnier, Forbes, Newsweek and Conde Nast’s Wired all are here.

In my early and fleeting test of the system, Google Play Magazines works a bit differently from Apple’s Newsstand in that it is cloud-based. You purchase the magazines by issue or trial or sub at the Web-based site and can have them delivered to a dedicated magazine app reader on the device you choose. It is worth mentioning that payment on Google Android is pretty much as seamless as Apple iOS and iTunes now. Once you are signed into the system with your Google ID and have a payment method on file, you are one click away from buying.

On the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 device I used, the issues show up in the Magazine Play app in a pleasant row. While the app and magazines are in the cloud, they do appear to download to the device for offline reading. But the cloud does track where you left off in a title so you can pick it up in the same place on another device.

Most of the magazines come to the system as facsimiles of print without much interactivity. But titles like House Beautiful come with a little blue icon bug designating an interactive edition. The issue I tried had much of the functionality of its iPad counterpart. Images could go full-page. There were videos triggered by interactive icons. And the interactive editions did have hot links for easier navigation.

But Google clearly acknowledges in this design that most of Android devices are smartphones and so there is a reading view on most pages that allows you to extract text from the layout for better small-screen reading.

One puzzling downside in my use was the absence of the magazine section on the Google Play storefront on the device itself. The old sections of the interface are still all that is available, so I couldn’t actually buy a magazine on the tablet itself. The Web was the purchase interface.

I don’t get it. You put magazines in the cloud, and then you make them disappear? 

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