The final technique is something that is emerging now, especially thanks to the great improvements in term of stability and speed introduced by the latest version of iOS for the in-app web views. A couple of good examples of this approach are the Ars Technica app (link) and the Bloomberg Businessweek+ magazine (link).
The concept is quite simple: html and css are common and powerful techniques to layout a page on screen: why not leverage the skills developed by many web designers to make a magazine that perfectly fits with the iPad?
The core block at the base of this approach is the UIWebView Cocoa Touch object: with this view we can load any kind of html document, loaded locally or remotely, and layout it in the page at an adequate speed (but not the fastest) and without surprises. Besides we can get rid of the overlay
such as Objective-J, provided with the Cappuccino framework: http://cappuccino.org/). Finally the web view is highly respondent to user interactions, and some features like text selection and dictionary lookup come for free.
The open-source world is highly active in this area: projects like Baker (www.bakerframework.com), Siteless (www.siteless.org), Laker (www.lakercompendium.com) and pugpig (pugpig.com) make publicly available this kind of solution.
Sincerely we don’t know if this will be the final solution for everybody. Of course a publisher that already invested in setting up a web site (but not in Flash!), and this is quite common between newspapers, will be able to port most of the layout and contents to the iPad, and sometimes this can
be achieved with an adaption of the CMS output views to provide files that can be easily fed to the app.
Careful must be given to don’t push this behavior at its extremes: don’t forget in fact that web page rendering requires an inner engine and at the end any intermediate layer will require resources and extra time. Sometimes, and this is particularly evident with the first generation of the iPad, content
a performance penalty will be visible.
As an example, the toolbar typical of all magazine apps used to access extra features (sharing, table of contents, home page, etc.) should always be done using the native Cocoa Touch component and not an html+css solution.
However if the publisher accepts to convert his design flow to a web based one and you, as developer, prefer to base your work on consolidated and easy to manipulate methodologies, this one should be your first choice to be taken in consideration.
We hope this article gives a good overview of the major techniques used to render pages in a magazine, newspaper or e-book. It could be we have not mentioned some technique we’re not aware of, in such case dear reader any feedback from you is welcome!
About the author: Carlo Vigiani
He is an electronics engineer and software developer, located in Italy. He is CTO and co-founder of new startup i3Factory.com, active in the development of iOS, Android and Win Mobile apps, with special focus on publishing, tourist and music apps.