Digital Reading Room: The man with the golden app

[As tablets get more powerful, with more memory and sharper-looking screens, their apps are getting a makeover. Increasingly, mobile apps employ multimedia—combining words, pictures, audio, and video—in new and interesting ways. In our Digital Reading Room series, we’ll look at some eye-catching multimedia apps and tell you which ones deserve a place on your mobile device.]

The iOS Newsstand gets a noteworthy addition, while another newspaper offers a pretty deep collection of its front pages over the years. But the latest round-up of content-rich tablet apps starts by introducing you to a man named Bond—James Bond.

James Bond: 50 Years of Movie Posters

James Bond: 50 Years of Movie Posters takes you on a tour of posters and flyers used to promote the Bond movies like this Japanese poster for Tomorrow Never Dies.

Ah, Susan. My first real date remains a good memory: a Saturday night at the local theater. Fifteen and in like with each other. Carly Simon singing “Nobody Does It Better” during the opening sequence to The Spy Who Loved Me. Holding hands, and even a real kiss from Susan when the movie ended.

I took my date for granted, giving her the cold shoulder before I realized, too late, what I was missing. But I justly appreciated the movie, and I’ve liked James Bond films ever since. Now, after spending some time with the James Bond: 50 Years of Movie Posters on my iPad, I’m ready to rent the ones I’ve missed.

The app is like a trip down memory lane with an intelligent (and worldly) guide, via movie posters, teasers, and lobby cards beginning with 1962’s Dr. No (starring Sean Connery) and ending with 2012’s Skyfall (starring Daniel Craig). The app’s thoughtful selection of images is notable, as is the accompanying commentary remarking upon posters and flyers used for the same movie. (“This flyer stresses the sexy side of the franchise” and “this poster … gives [Bond] a slightly threatening air.”) The captions usually mention the designer, artist, or marketing honcho who came up with the image’s content, or point out an interesting aspect of the poster that could be easily overlooked with a casual eye.

The app enables you to search for and bookmark your favorite images, but it’s largely a simple collection that’s easy to navigate, especially if you opt to view the images in an automated slideshow. While the app doesn’t tempt me to shell out $27 for the hardcover book, hard core Bond fans are likely to be tempted.

Where to Get It: $5; iOS App Store

The Verdict: A keeper for Bond fans, designers, and artists.

Mental Floss

There’s not too much fancy interactive stuff in the Newsstand version of Mental Floss magazine, but easy access to articles, pages, and bookmarked items is always only a tap or two away, and some small images can be popped into larger ones, like this image of @wordnik displayed on an iPod Touch

I like Mental Floss a lot, but its annual subscription—eight issues for $22—has always been a showstopper for me. Instead, I’ll take a peek every once in a while at a local bookstore that carries the magazine or when I see an issue on a friend’s coffee table. (If you’re not familiar with Mental Floss, the best way to get an idea of the magazine’s style and its nearly boundless range of substance is to visit its website.)

The iPad Newsstand edition of Mental Floss contains almost identical content to its print counterpart (at least at this early stage with three issues available for the iPad). The content is excellent—well-written, witty factoids interspersed with lengthier features and clever images and infographics. (In the November issue, for example, the main feature package focused on influential TV shows, but the standout info nugget for me was that Salvador Dali designed the logo for Chupa Chups lollipops.)

Access to individual pages, articles, and items is available anywhere in the digital magazine via a page-slider on the bottom, a single tap on an article title on the cover, or a reference in the index at the front of the magazine (which Mental Floss uses in lieu of the traditional table of contents). You can also bookmark and email images of single pages.

Where to Get It: $6 per single issue; $22 yearly subscription; iOS App Store

The Verdict: If it’s your cup of tea, subscribe to the print version and get the iPad version for free.

International Herald Tribune for iPad

Those who put together this selection of International Herald Tribune of front pages focuses on Significant and Serious world events—the Nixon resignation, say—at the expense of many phenomena that may have been more illustrative of the historical changes of the past 125 years.

The International Herald Tribune has always been a small but reassuring taste of home during my infrequent travels abroad. The newspaper combines reporting from The New York Times and Washington Post with original reporting from its Paris HQ and small bureaus scattered throughout Europe. The IHT first published a collection of its front pages in 1980, and this app is referred to in the introduction as the fifth edition of the collection.

The app includes 185 front page images which are accessible by simple swiping backward or forward, through access to chronological sections (1887-1912, 1914-1919, etc.), and also via a chronological index of front page articles. The app’s zoom function is terrific; the text and image quality adjusts as you zoom in and out, making every article very readable, and enabling you to closely examine each image.

What makes this app less than entertaining is that the selected front pages overwhelmingly stress wars, elections, deaths of important political figures, and disasters of all kinds, at the expense of culture, the arts, sports, and other topics. In this collection, Elvis, Ali, and a half dozen or more major cultural icons don’t play any part; neither the Empire State Building nor the Astrodome is dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” while the Beatles get a mention only upon John Lennon’s assassination. And the Sixties were turbulent because of wars and assassinations, not social movements and major changes in social mores and pop culture.

Despite this, International Herald Tribune for iPad is a solid resource for history junkies, and it’s fascinating to browse through, both to see the changes the newspaper has undergone in 125 years, and also to understand many events that shaped modern world history.

Where to Get It: Free; iOS App Store

The Verdict: Worth a look.

News and Notes

Huffington collects content from The Huffington Post website into a digital magazine.

Huffington, a magazine edition of The Huffington Post Magazine, is priced right—it’s free—but at this early stage in its development, the app doesn’t capture the energy of the Web site. It’s a solid start, and great for offline reading, but I’d rather spend my time on the site itself. If you’re looking for a great, brief, witty and entertaining weekly news summary, The Week is a better, but quite pricey, bet.

I gave kudos to The Guitar Collection: George Harrison for iPad shortly after its February release. At the time—and still, if you go by the app’s App Store listing—the developer promised that Guitar collection would be “continually updated with more guitars and more content.” It’s been nine months, and we’re still waiting. Apple has introduced three new iPad versions since The Guitar Collection debuted; it seems that adding a few additional guitars, and additional content to the app would be a less challenging task.

This story, "Digital Reading Room: The man with the golden app" was originally published by TechHive.

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