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Breaking Into the Tablishing Business

Posted: 01/04/12 01:05 PM ET

For those living in the city, it's no secret that San Francisco has long been a stronghold not only for tech, but also for publishing. The latter, however, is often overshadowed by behemoths in New York, being written off as cute or, at best, getting a dutiful head nod. Yet it's the small size of the publishing world here, combined with the prevalent tech influences that are about to give New York publishing powerhouses a run for their money.

With the ascension of dynamic new publishing platforms like the iPad, publishing strength is becoming democratized; young startups, like us at Once Magazine, are introducing different ways to blend tech and editorial on these strange yet startlingly intuitive devices.

Operating on shoe-string budgets and pulling from a wishing well of shrewd and oft young designers, writers, and technologists willing to experiment for less, San Francisco is home to a nimble publishing scene. In the case of Once, we keep with the more traditional forms of journalism, but wholeheartedly embrace the fact that photos look gorgeous on the iPad. It's a simple but different formula, and a production that could only exist in this passion-project city of San Francisco.

Photojournalism is not the only way to distill compelling stories into a visually impactful package. All-colorful and all-stimulating, tablet publishing (dare we coin the phrase "tablishing?") offers a new vehicle for multimedia that can produce engrossing ebooks, genre-bending stories, and hyper-local blogging, all at the same time, and do them all well. Movies inside a magazine?! Comic books without panels?!! Here are three new publishers/publications that are changing what it means to engage in 2012:

• Closed Mondays

Closed Mondays, headed by Jessi Rymill, rethinks the "book" by publishing it on the iPad. Rymill knows how to elegantly streamline fact-heavy and research-based books like Al Gore's Our Choice, a seminal ebook she helped create with Push Pop Press -- another ebook publisher that was acquired by Facebook earlier this year. Completely interactive, Our Choice bundles infographics, videos, location-based services, and more into one smooth package. Engrossing ebooks like this one are a natural fit for enthusiasts, but could also appeal to the tepid learner, serving as teaching tools for educators looking to tailor curriculums to their E-Gen students. Think ketchup as a vegetable -- but for learning.

• Cognito Comics

Cognito Comics uses the iPad to dissolve the borderlines of storyboarding. Their latest interactive comic, CIA: Operation Ajax, tells the real-life story of the Iran-Contra through a graphic comic structure, declassified CIA documents, and archival video. Operation Ajax blends elements of fiction with the historical, reaching the core issues of the event in a very dramatic way. The medium is the message on many levels in this comical re-telling of dark history. For more about what went into the development and the production of this amazing app check out Cognito's interview with GeekDad on Wired.com.

• The Bold Italic

Simply put, The Bold Italic pays careful attention. This hyper-local magazine knows the myriad beats of this bay city. The Bold Italic puts out some superbly designed intel about San Francisco culture -- reliable pieces on places to go, things to do, foods to eat, and cocktails to enjoy. Unlike Once that offers a broader lens for overlooked issues, Bold Italic has a microscope trained on this eclectic city, offering a keen version of what might happen if Yelp was a well-run magazine. They're a great example of how a small publication with a very specific audience can make something worth seeing and how a digital magazine doesn't have to throw in all the bells and whistles to make their product sing. The Bold Italic made the transition into digital effortlessly by sticking to what they do best: content that covers the most interesting purveyors in the city and sleek design.

In between losing 10 lbs, quitting smoking, and being more outgoing this new year, pick up some local flare for your iPad and take some time to explore these publications that capture the zeitgeist of this clever city.

About the Authors: Scott Cohen and Nick Hiebert work for 'Once Magazine,' an iPad-only publication that showcases narrative photojournalism. The magazine is vivid and thoughtful photo stories that create a rich tablet experience, and, to boot, each issue's revenue is split between the contributing photographers. Check it out here.