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Ever since I started exploring online journalism in the late '70s, an odd strawman has reared its head. It's the one that suggests that newspapers and other traditional media have to make a choice between paper and screen.
But what if your screen was your paper? What if the very best experience you could have with your print content was under glass? What if silicon were the new cellulose?
That's where we are now with the iPad.
Take a look at Vogue magazine on a retina-display iPad. The images and text are sharper, brighter, more detailed and richer than the print. And then there's all that rich media and interactivity. The printed Vogue you buy on the newsstand is deprecated relative to the digital version. The tablet version is the reference version.
So, in some ways, hi-rez tablets have created a best-of-all-worlds middle ground between print and online.
It's within the boundaries of that mid-ground that the Best of rabble.ca 2011 ebook lives.
My students at the University of Western Ontario culled video, audio, text and stills from the mediaverse that is rabble.ca and created an interactive, rich media book exclusively for iPad using the free software, iBooks Author. Another team created an iBook experience for thetyee.ca, based on its "Growing the Local Bounty" series.
In the process, the students learned that tablet-based, rich-media books are a new platform for journalism, and may spark a new kind of journalism altogether.
Right now, newspapers and magazines turn their best long-form journalism works into quick turn-around paperbacks or, in some cases, plain-text ebooks for devices like the Kobo Touch or the Kindle. But the rabble.ca ebook goes far beyond those products. As you'll see if you download it (and I encourage that), the students have woven video collage, slide galleries, sound clips, podcasts and beautifully rendered features into the book. Readers also have a full table of contents, search, and the ability to highlight text, make notes and generate study cards.
We think it's the best medium for long-form journalism we've seen. We're certain other media outlets will follow rabble's lead. Not that that's unusual.
One of the reasons I volunteer my time at rabble is because it's always been willing to lead with technology -- with babble, the rabble podcast network, the book lounge, rabbletv, livestreaming and the rabble.ca iPhone app, it's shown what is possible.
So, here we go again. My students love tablets. They think they're the future of a profession they've just started out in. I'm betting they're right. Let us know what you think. You can download the Best of rabble.ca for iPad here.
Wayne MacPhail has been a print and online journalist for 25 years, and is a long-time writer for rabble.ca on technology and the Internet.