Marc Saltzman: App Dad


Life 75: A Digital Coffee Table Book For iPad

Not perfect, but packed with beautiful photos, engaging text

To help celebrate Life magazine's 75th anniversary, publisher Time Home Entertainment has created a digital coffee table book for iPad owners.

While pricey at $10 (dropped from $13 a week ago) and not a complete photo anthology, Life 75 offers a stunning look back at 75 years in pictures.

This hefty 506 MB download is really two photo galleries in one:

* When held sideways (landscape view), the app offers hundreds of black-and-white and colour photographs from Life's pages over the past three-quarters of a century. Most of the photos are from the '30s to the '70s, mind you. There are many notable highlights, including John F. Kennedy smiling at baby Caroline in her crib, disturbing World War II photos, a posing Marilyn Monroe, Apollo 17's trip to the moon and photos from the womb. Tap on the photo and you can read a caption (about the date, photographer or subject), unlock a few bonus photos or read a short article or interview or see a related video clip.

* When the iPad is held vertically (portrait view), you can flick through nearly 140 of Life's most memorable covers, divided by theme such as At War, Space, In the Wild and Up Close with the Stars, to name a few. Rotate the tablet and you'll see a relevant photo from that issue. For example, a colour photo of The Beatles graces the cover from Life's Aug. 28, 1964, issue. And if you turn the iPad sideways, you'll see John Loengard's famous black-and-white photo of the Fab Four swimming a few days after their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Tap near the bottom of the screen to pull up the table of contents, thumbnails of each photo and other info.

But not all of the photos seem to be organized as well. For example, you can choose to view photos by decade, but not only are the '90s and '00s scarcely populated with only two photos apiece, but when you flick left or right from a shot of Buckingham Palace in 2002 you'll see a 1945 photo on the death of FDR. Aren't we supposed to be seeing the '00s?

That said, budding photographers or armchair historians might also enjoy an interactive game where you're assuming the role of the Life editor. You'll be presented with a number of similar photos and must choose the one that made the cut.

While incomplete and with some navigation issues, Life 75 contains a large number of beautiful photos and some additional content that should appeal to many people. But given its limitations, the app might be more appealing at $4 or $5 opposed to $10.

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