You can pre-view the entire recent (Talent) issue of FOAM Magazine online. I think that’s a brilliant idea. There is no way that leafing through the magazine online can possibly replace looking at the actual object, but if you don’t know what to expect or if you’re curious you can get an idea what the magazine looks like. (more)
But OK, why not simply have an electronic copy (if you have an iPad, say)? Obviously, I can’t speak for its makers, but this issue of the magazine (just like all other issues) uses eight different types of paper for the different portfolios (assuming I counted it correctly). So you’re not just looking at all these different photographs, you also get them presented in slightly different ways (matte, semi-glossy, etc.). That simply won’t work on an iPad where everything is equally backlit.
I’m probably a bit out of the loop here, but maybe one of the proponents of photo ebooks can let me know how an electronic device can deal with the differences between glossy and matte photographs. That’s hugely important for printed photographs: To pick the right type of paper to print them on. How does the shiny iPad with its backlit images solve this problem? I’m assuming it doesn’t - because it’s physically impossible. That alone would be a rather big problem with photo ebooks on an iPad (or any other type of computer).
I get to hear about this problem a lot already when people complain about what photographs look like on a computer screen. My answer is always the same: The computer screen is a different medium, and I have to take the way it works into consideration. Some work just don’t look as good on a computer screen as on paper.
A simple example would be this photograph (see this post). I have a framed copy of this photo hanging on the wall in my house. The physical object is intensely beautiful, and it’s easy to see how making an electronic copy is very, very difficult.
So for me, while I look at photography online a lot the proof of the pudding is in the eating, meaning in seeing a print or a photobook. For electronic devices to seriously replace photobooks, magazines or even prints (see this post over at DLK) the problem of the quality of the image has to be solved. By quality I here don’t just mean the quality of the reproduction on the electronic device (making sure there are no compression artifacts). I especially mean the visual quality of an image, created by the way the photograph appears as a physical object through the combination of ink (or chemicals) and paper.
A lot of photographs don’t have that problem. You could take any fashion magazine, say, and transfer it instantly onto an electronic device. Glossy is always glossy. But there are many types of photography for which the electronic versions I have seen so far are only very meager representations of the prints.
I will admit that my big worry is that such considerations will simply fall by the wayside as the big electronic parade is marching through town, hyping photo ebooks. Not so fast, people!
So check out FOAM’s Talent issue online, but then buy the real thing. It’s a world of a difference.