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Review: SpinKnit e-mag

First, the facts:

Title: Spin Knit: Fiber, Needles, Spindle, Wheel

Published by: Interweave Press, 2010

Pages: 23 articles

Type: E-Magazine

The In-Depth Look:

From the publisher:

SpinKnit is a magazine that fuses the ancient crafts of handspinning and handknitting with the very cutting edge of digital technology. The eMag is co-edited by Interweave founder Linda Ligon and Weaving Today Editor Anita Osterhaug.

“It’s a bit like National Geographic Traveler for knitters and spinners,” says Osterhaug. “We take crafters to incredible places around the globe to learn from spinning luminaries and bring them gorgeous photography and video they won’t see anywhere else.

Linda Ligon added, “The video, audio, and interactive features are what make this eMag dynamic and an entirely new magazine experience, but even without the bells and whistles, the content is a fantastic read.”

It can’t possibly surprise you to know that I love books and magazines. (Hence this site, after all.) And while I love gadgets and computers and my Kindle e-reader and all … I like the feel of paper in my hands.

Not only that, most e-books and e-magazines leave me yawning. Either they are virtual facsimiles of the paper versions (in which case, why bother?), or they try so hard to fit in all the New! Nifty! Exciting! features like video and slide shows that the magazine experience is distracting and chopped-up rather than something that flows naturally.

Which is why I’m delighted to tell you that I really liked this e-magazine.

The articles (Andean spinning, an interview with Priscilla Gibson-Roberts, among other things) were interesting, much like the articles in Spin-Off Magazine, but alongside the text were enticing additions like video of Andean women spinning, or live interviews to compliment the text. Slide shows of additional photos. Details for patterns. Do you like the patterns? Click the pdf link to open it up right then and there. Want to see what the spinning looks like? Click the video. Even the ads had video extras.

Best of all, the extras actually add to the quality, instead of being distracting.

It helps, of course, that I love watching videos of spinning–more than I do knitting videos. Part of that, I think, is because spinning is so dynamic–reading about how drafting is done, how you let the twist into the fiber isn’t always sufficient. No matter how good the writer, it’s hard to describe the process. How wonderful to be able to see exactly what they mean when they talk about Andean double-drafting. Or to hear Priscilla Gibson-Roberts talk from her heart about the importance of spinning.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that most spinners seem to have these lovely, soothing, rhythmic voices.

It took a little clicking around to figure out the navigation. There’s a forward-back arrow at the top center for moving from article to article, and then there are page up-and-down arrows in the right corner for moving down through the multi-page articles. I noticed that, when I moved to the next article from the bottom of one, if I went back, I was still at the last page rather than the top, which took a little getting used to. There are useful little icons to let you know where the videos, slide-shows and so on are located–and if you click on the “?” at the top of the screen, you’ll get helpful tips on maneuvering.

The e-mag comes with its own software app, built on Adobe Air, which you have to download and install to experience the magazine. On my laptop, which sometimes makes heavy weather of downloading, it took a while. That might not be an issue for you, of course. You also need either a Mac or a PC to run the software. (Don’t ask me to be more technical than that, please.)

One nice touch I noticed? On the interviews and conversations with two people, the audio was mixed so that one person came out of one speaker, the other out of the other, which made it easy to tell when the speakers switched. (Especially if, like me, you sometimes let videos play in your computer background while you do other things.) I thought it was funny, though, that for one of the videos, the right-hand person’s voice came from my left speaker, and the left-hand person’s came out of the right, but who cares? I loved the stereo. My computer may not be speedy about downloading, but it’s got great speakers.

All in all, this is the first e-mag that I’ve seen that really blends what a magazine is with the new and shiny technical toys that are available in a graceful, useful way. Too many tech people get so excited about being able to do new things, they put new features everywhere. Remember when color printers came out? Suddenly, people weren’t just using some color, they were cramming in every color they could think of, everywhere, as often as they could, and the result was a chaotic disaster. Same thing with computer techology–it’s easy to get so caught up in things you CAN do, you forget that sometimes less is more.

My biggest reservation about this otherwise great e-mag? The selling price is $14.97, which seems like a lot for just one issue. And while you can print the articles (and the patterns, obviously), you can’t print the videos for storing on your shelf. But then … look how much the (paper) Rowan magazine issues are, and since this comes with some really nice, interactive extras … well, only you can decide if that’s too much, too little, or just right. I don’t know if Interweave plans on having annual subscriptions that would lower the per-issue price. This is a new frontier, and the entire publishing industry is feeling its way, so … we’ll see what happens.

But, that said?

This e-mag, in my opinion, found the right balance between new-and-shiny technological options and the whole point of the magazine–the CONTENT. It definitely gets a thumbs-up.

This review copy was kindly donated by Interweave Press. Thank you!

My Gush: I’m surprised at how much I really liked this! You should absolutely check it out!

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