Beyond games, I want apps to make my life more organized or lighter - literally minimize the stacks of bound leaves of processed wood pulp that collect in every room of my house until I trip over them, then eventually haul them out to recycling. Publishers may cringe or jump up and down depending on how they see this, but apps hold enormous tidiness potential.
McSweeney's has a subscription iPhone app that they call Small Chair. If you know McSweeney's, you know they are solid. If you don't, McSweeney's is a reputable publisher with varying content from whimsical to heady. Just one example, "An Open Letter To My Artistic Potential" by Jamie King is a great tongue-in-cheek creative kick in the ass. They publish great interviews with top notch creatives. Check them out through the built in links. My point is that you can trust McSweeney's to pull together good collections of works. Plus, they aren't sell outs for advertising (so far) so you can rely on a clean, uninterrupted read (at least on their end - you can't blame them for the neighbors dogs barking incessantly).
With Small Chair, Russell Quinn and McSweeney's did a beautiful job building a simple, smart interface that bridges the distance between a conventional magazine subscription and a virtual one. Because it is in my pocket, I can pull up the app and read a bit of fiction while I'm waiting to meet a friend at a cafe or watch an art video when waiting at the dentist or what have you. And because it is in my phone, it's with me most of the time but not as cumbersome as a collection of magazines. Further, if I like an author and am interested in their other works, I can pop over to Google seamlessly without need for scraps of paper for jotting web addresses that eventually wind up in that recycling pile. And if I do want to make notes for follow up, I put it in my iPhone and get this: my notes are kept more in order by being in one place. It's a revolution, I tell you. Not to mention a purge from the guilt acquired by physical magazines not fully read that lay under foot waiting to be 'finished.'
It works just like conventional subscriptions. You pay a six-month subscription rate that includes the app purchase (right now the whole deal costs only $5.99) to receive weekly uploads of articles, stories, interviews, and videos culled from their publications plus additional exclusive content. I picked a combo of two of their magazines, Believer (more literary) and Wholphin (art & video). With conventional hard copy subscriptions I would have had to commit to just one. And I would have had a magazine and a dvd to dedicate my attention to separately. And because the app is always on the run with me, I get more reading done this way.
Finally, I am not advocating that all printed material belongs in an app or is by any means better than gripping a hard cover, nose down and turning pages of a novel. Nothing truly replaces that kind of experience. Subscriptions like McSweeney's are perfect for apps probably because they are ongoing and short format plus they also have videos and music combined with the 'printed' word. I'm not so ready to see The New Yorker do this. Partly because I can't picture it. (They have an app for their cartoons that apparently reviewers feel is overdone with ads but don't have a full blown subscription deal like Small Chair.) The sequence of how you read a New Yorker is so important, I think. Even if you start with the cartoons, as many of us do, the structure, scale and layout are integrated into that reading experience. But hey, if they put Russell Quinn to work on it, no doubt they can figure it out. And I'd be thrilled to give it a go, especially if it is as lean and smart as my Small Chair.