A Case of Disc-based Digital Content: The New Yorker Magazine

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The Solution
The solution from Bondi combines the DjVu rendering technology, a custom database that combines the full-text content, metadata, and other finding information with a custom user interface. The UI design and functionality of the product were developed through a collaborative, iterative development process between the New Yorker and Bondi Digital teams. Over a four-month period, Bondi developed a series of working prototypes for New Yorker staff to review. While not fully functional, the prototypes showed the major search and navigational features and allowed for significant feedback and iterative redesign.

For Bondi's Aktar, working with the New Yorker team was an eye-opening experience. "Working with them was very rewarding," says Aktar. "They have such high standards, and they expect everything they do to be perfect." But it was more than the perfectionism that drove the product design. "They really had a vision for the product and great insight into the users," according to Aktar. "They understand their readers, and fought against jargon or any kind of cute, marginal extra features. This was really the opposite of most projects that I have worked on. Everything got simpler, not more complicated."

A digitization effort was already underway—so far, only content from February 2005-on is available online, and the Web archive points users to the DVD for more—and the design effort took place in parallel to digitization work. Thus, the team had access to partial deliveries of the database at different points in the product. This gave them the opportunity to test the captured content and metadata during the software development and optimize it later. It also allowed them to begin working with the DjVu rendering technology early on and test different settings for the compression and rendering.

The requirement to deliver on both Macintosh and Windows machines was addressed by having complete, parallel development efforts. This meant two separate code bases, and the need to integrate and troubleshoot all the content and components in two completely separate environments. While this added complexity to the effort, Aktar concluded, "On balance, this was the right thing to do," given the likely size of the Macintosh user base for this product.

The Outcome
The resulting product is a beautifully packaged eight-DVD collection with a companion book. The product installs the user interface, which includes the search database, abstracts, issue-by-issue tables of contents, and the cover art for each issue. It also installs the full text of the first issue, published February 21, 1925. This landmark issue has been reprinted many times over the years and is often given away as a premium, and is famous for its illustration of a preciously dressed man peering through a monocle at a butterfly. The illustration has been traditionally reprinted each year on the magazine's anniversary, so the illustration—and the complete first issue—has a well-deserved prominent place in the software product as well.

True to the goals of the product, the software is both very simple in its user interface and full of very useful features for its readers. Readers have access to a comprehensive lookup mechanism but can also browse by year, month, issue, and cover. Once in a given issue of the magazine, readers can navigate a table of contents that includes author, genre, department, and page number, or they can navigate by single pages or by spreads of two pages. Updates will be provided annually on a DVD, and early registered buyers will receive the first update for free.

This being the New Yorker, the cartoons deserved some special handling, so the Bondi and New Yorker teams designed a cartoon browser. Within a given issue, the cartoon browser enables the viewer to navigate from cartoon to cartoon, and it also provides a pop-up table of contents just for the cartoons that lists each cartoon by page and artist. The general search also supports the cartoons. For example, you could readily do a search for all cartoons by James Thurber from 1931, or find, for example, Roz Chast's first New Yorker cartoon ("Little Things," a collection of small objects with nonsense names published on July 3, 1978).

The product was launched on September 25, 2005, and has been enormously successful (it has been on Amazon.com's top 100 since the launch and is number 47 at this writing). For the New Yorker's Klaris, the result is very satisfying. "It's doing really well," says Klaris. "When you look at other books that came out at the same time, it has real staying power, which is rare. Momentum is growing," he says. "This is a product we believe we can sell for years."

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