If you believe the online revolution couldn't be further away from the tactile thrills of your local newsagent, you may want to reconsider. The tablet is becoming a newsagent in your pocket thanks to apps such as Zinio, Newsstand and Magshop, offering instant access to local and international publications and an endless library of back issues.
''Publishing for tablets is expected to accelerate quickly in the years ahead,'' says Carl Hammerschmidt, director of the digital arm of the ACP magazine stable responsible for Woman's Day and TV Week, among others.
''As tablets become more affordable and service a greater array of consumer needs, they'll make their way into more homes.''
Hammerschmidt may be on to something. A recent study by technology research firm Forrester predicts half of Australia's population will be using tablets by 2016. It says 2.3 million tablets will be sold in Australia this year alone.
The popularity of tablet devices has allowed publishers to find new readers for once popular titles now plagued by sliding circulation.
''The tablet allows readers to access their favourite magazine brands when, where and how they want, and in a way that provides meaningful engagement with that brand,'' Hammerschmidt says.
Launched late last year, Apple's Newsstand app has made it easier than ever for iPad users to read their favourite national publications and international titles without hefty overseas costs. Taking the form of a digital bookshelf, the app allows readers to browse a library of current editions and back issues with the swipe of finger.
Along with Next Issue, a US iPad app that equips readers with flat-fee, unlimited access to titles such as Wired, GQ and Esquire, Newsstand is changing the game for readers and publishers. Conde Nast, US publisher of Vanity Fair, Vogue and Golf Digest, reported a 268 per cent jump in digital downloads just two weeks after Newsstand's launch.
Australian publishers are fast playing catch-up. In December 2011, ACP joined with Samsung to launch Magshop on the Galaxy tablet. Magshop's virtual newsstand offers more than 50 titles including digital editions of Cleo, Rolling Stone and The Australian Women's Weekly, downloaded for 30 per cent off the retail price of print versions.
''We repurpose the full issue for the tablet with bonus content and include features that provide a new and engaging proposition for readers,'' Hammerschmidt says.
But when it comes to the tablet, publishing innovation is a level playing field. The chief executive of independent publisher Fashion Industry Broadcast, Paul Roberts, says tablets offer creative possibilities that aren't limited to big publishers.
Artisan, a local food and lifestyle publication, seamlessly blends images, text, animation and video footage - evidence a tablet magazine can leap off the page.
''In the past, the publishing business has been two-dimensional,'' Roberts says. ''But the tablet gives you several dimensions to play with … you can touch things, click things, pinch and zoom. It's like having the full box of colour pencils, rather than one.''
Top magazines for your tablet
Harper's Bazaar Australia
Home and lifestyle
Australian Gourmet Traveller