January 3, 2013

Seattle Times | iTunes
At the end of each year, The Seattle Times chooses its Pictures of the Year to feature in online galleries and its weekly print magazine.

This year it added something new — a $2.99 e-book for iPads that lets readers swipe and tap through the full-screen immersive images.

The table of contents for the e-book.

“Visual storytelling really shines on the iPad, so it seemed a natural place to highlight our best photojournalism and videos,” Mobile Development Specialist Denise Clifton told me by email.

The book contains 135 photographs and 12 videos. It will be updated this month to add 13 more photos from December.

The Times staff used Apple’s iBooks Author software to create the book, Clifton said, “because it allowed us to create a beautiful, immersive presentation for our photojournalism with minimal resources.”

The catch is, you can only sell those books in Apple’s iBooks store. But the Times was OK with that compromise in this case.

“We decided to start with a format that would best showcase our images and that we could execute relatively quickly with a small team,” Clifton said. “With the iPad dominating the large-tablet market and with the interactive functionality built in to the iBooks Author software, we thought this was an excellent place to start.”

One of the featured photos, by Erika Schultz.

The project required part-time efforts from Clifton, Photo Editor Fred Nelson, a copy editor and a photo production technician. The whole process from planning to prototyping to publishing took about a month.

Readers have responded well so far. More than a hundred purchased the book over the holidays, and it should benefit from a big promotional push for a Pictures of the Year event at the Seattle Public Library at the end of January.

Feedback has been positive, Clifton said, with download time as the only complaint. With so many high-resolution images packed in, the book weighs in at 500MB.

Clifton said the Times will be looking to bring more visual journalism to tablets in the future.

“This was definitely an experiment for us,” she said. “Like all newsrooms, The Seattle Times still formulating a strategy for digital projects like this. This was an excellent project to start with — a good fit both for our needs and for the content — but it’s hard to say exactly what we might try next. That said, it’s so exciting to see the emerging possibilities for visual storytelling in the tablet format, and we definitely want to explore more options in the near future.”

Related: Photos-of-the-year collections from White House photographer Pete Souza, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, Denver Post.

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Jeff Sonderman (jsonderman@poynter.org) is the Digital Media Fellow at The Poynter Institute. He focuses on innovations and strategies for mobile platforms and social media in…
Jeff Sonderman

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