The first wave of magazines supporting Apple's Newsstand feature on iOS 5 went live today, which is good news. In theory, Newsstand isn't that big of a deal. But using it, you realize it's something more.
I really love having my magazines on a tablet. Gone are the stacks of backlogged magazines that I eventually get around to. That said, those unread issues become a little easier to forget on the iPad. Especially when surrounded by addictive time killers like Fruit Ninja.
But when housed in Newsstand, those issues jump out at you a little more. In theory, it's just a folder with a special skin slapped over it. But it feels like more. That's mostly because you aren't just looking at a static icon anymore. When you tap the Newsstand photo, you're greeted by the latest covers of of the magazines you have in your stable. It grabs your attention and reminds you that there's new stuff to read.
And then there are the automatic downloads which make the entire process of getting these issues more frictionless. Unfortunately, not a lot of pubs are supporting this full functionality quite yet. PopSci and PopPhoto will let you download issues in the background one at a time. The Conde Nast mags, like Wired, GQ and the New Yorker...not so much (for now, at least). But the functionality on display so far is promising. (Update: Mark McClusky from Wired says that the Wired app—and presumably the other Conde Nast apps—will support the automatic downloads beginning with the next new issue.)
And yeah, there's Zinio, but when a mag is built around the iPad, it comes to life. Videos, and interactive sidebars, and soundclips are all woven into the design of the mag. Zinio's static pages are fine, but it's not quite the same. I'm just hoping the majority of the magazine world embraces newsstand. [iOS 5 on Giz]