Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and reading resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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January 7, 2013: After some hard thought, I've decided to officially shut down this blog. I know I haven't updated it in a while, but I thought I should let you all know so you can remove it from your RSS feeds, etc.

Reason: I've decided that I need to find ways to make more time to read and create books.

I had great fun working on illustrating I'M BORED (written by Michael Ian Black, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in Sept/2012) and am now working on writing and/or illustrating new book projects. In addition to my picture book projects, I also want to get back to my novel writing.

My challenge: I want to do too many things and am currently involved in too many projects. My solution: To prioritize and cull.

You can find out what I'm working on at or follow me on Twitter at @inkyelbows.

Thanks so much for your support and interest in my projects.

-- Debbie


Comic: iPad envy (I drew this on the iPad with Sketchbook Pro)

I drew the above comic on my iPad using Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro, with a Pogo stylus. I used different layers for elements of the cartoon so it would be easier to fix screw-ups, then I used other layers (after making them partly transparent) for colouring and shading.

When the basic artwork was finished, I e-mailed a flattened version of the file to myself, then opened it up in Corel Painter to add the text as well as paste in and adjust my screenshot for Words With Friends.


Magazines and the iPad: Zinio review & thoughts about reading/buying digital magazines

One of the reasons I wanted an iPad was to be able to read books and magazines in a digital, portable format. As I've mentioned before, I've been reading e-books on my iPhone since I bought the device.

Magazine publishers are scrambling to take advantage of devices like the iPad. Some are selling individual issues of their publications in the iTunes app store or on their own sites while others are using marketplaces like Zinio. While selling individual issues is fine if a reader is looking for a specific title, I prefer an app that I can use to browse and read multiple publications.

I tried Zinio first because I'm familiar with the iPhone app. The iPad version, however, still needs improvement, plus publishers need to better adapt their publications for the iPad.

Browsing and subscribing

Browsing new magazines is fairly straightforward on the iPad version of Zinio, though I'm crazy about the fact that unless I'm in the middle of reading a publication, the first screen I see after the initial splash screen is a promo for a magazine. In order to get to my library, I always have to use an extra command.

I can browse magazines not in my library by going to the Zinio Shop, where I can view available magazines by categories, new arrivals, or top sellers. Clicking on a magazine cover takes me to a page of information about that title, including pricing and the option to make a purchase. Some magazines are available as individual issues while others can be purchased as a subscription. The payment process is straightforward. 


I like the fact that you can control when issues are downloaded. When a new weekly issue of Maclean's is available, for example, I get a notification but the issue isn't downloaded until I specify. Ideally, however, I'd like to be able to set this preference. Right now, there isn't much flexibility or customization options in the settings.

Deletion process is confusing

I encountered my first real problem when I wanted to get rid of some of the freebie issues as well as older issues of Maclean's that I had finished reading. There didn't seem to be an obvious way of deleting issues. Clicking on "EDIT" prompted a small "X" to appear in the top right corner of the magazine covers, but clicking on the X didn't seem to do anything. The Help file in the iPad instructed me to single-tap and hold a publication for a few seconds, but that only resulted in the magazine opening (and downloading first, if it wasn't already downloaded).


After doing some more testing, I discovered that the magazine's content WAS deleted on my device, but the magazine cover remained in my library. I assume this is to enable users to access archived issues, but if someone has subscribed to several publications, especially weekly titles, a user's library is going to get very cluttered. Hopefully Zinio will improve the archive user interface soon.

Magazine publishers need to test their publications on an iPad

One of the first magazines I subscribed to through Zinio was Maclean's. It's pretty much impossible to read the magazine in the double page, landscape mode: the type is too small and blurry. You can always zoom in the make the type bigger, of course, but then it's a pain to have to scroll up and down to read the columns. If Maclean's PDF (or whatever format the image is in) was higher quality, however, it WOULD be possible to read the text in this format without zooming. It would still be small, of course, but not impossible.

I found myself doing most of my reading in portrait format because the text was readable, though still slightly blurry. Hopefully someone at Maclean's will actually try reading their publication on an iPad and realize that they need to provide a sharper image in digital format.

Magazine publishers need to take advantage of the iPad's features

Most of the magazines currently in the Zinio marketplace mirror their print counterparts exactly. I believe that in order for digital magazines to succeed, they need to do more. I knew that Maclean's digital magazine was the same as the print version and still opted to subscribe, but I was already on the verge of subscribing to Maclean's. 

To attract NEW users, publishers have to enrich the reader experience. Younger readers will be more interested in an experience that better mimics the multimedia environment of the Internet. Just after the iPad was launched, National Geographic had a special iPad Interactive Edition available for free online. I downloaded this right away, of course, and was impressed by how well the publisher took advantage of iPad features.

Unlike Maclean's, National Geographic's text was readable even in landscape mode. There were imbedded videos that enhanced the content of articles. Layout of each spread would adjust, depending on whether the reader was holding the iPad in landscape or portrait position. The photos were sharp and took full advantage of the iPad's screen.

Will the iPad save the magazine publishing industry?

Until more magazine publishers redesign their publications to fully embrace the potential of the iPad and similar tablet devices, consumers aren't going to be suddenly buying more magazines just because they can read them digitally. Just scanning the pages in your publication and dropping them into the digital marketplace is not going to attract new readership.

However, it's only been a month since the Wifi edition of the iPad was launched in the U.S., and a few days since the 3G version debuted. Content creators are still figuring out the potential of devices like the iPad, and I'm sure we'll be seeing better and better adaptations of print publications as well as new digital-only magazines over the coming months.

So my answer to the question, "Will the iPad save the magazine publishing industry?" is simply this: Not yet.

Related resources:

Here is why the iPad won't save the publishing industry - by Rory Maher

Media iPad apps: Will These Magazine & Newspaper Apps Save The Industry? - Danny Shea (Huffington Post)

The iPad won't save the publishing industry from itself - Paul Michelman (Kellogg)


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