Zinio delivers digital editions of many popular magazines to the desktop, iPad, iPhone and Android platforms. With reasonable savings on the cover price and an exceptional reading experience from a tablet device, Zinio is a great example of how we may all be reading magazines in the future. We review the iOS version of Zinio after a month of use.
Good Bits: Wide range of magazines available; Pleasant reading experience; Fast page loading; Text reading mode
Bad Bits: No way to search your back-issues
What is Zinio for iPad?
Zinio is a pleasantly simple application which presents you with three tabs when you load up the app. The Explore tab gives you access to a number of free articles which give you a glimpse of what the magazines on Zinio have to offer. The Shop tab allows you to browse through the magazines store, either by category or through a custom search. From here you can purchase single issues or an ongoing subscription, which will feed you new issues when they’re released. Purchases can be easily made ‘in-app’, unlike Kindle for iPad.
The Read tab presents you with your e-zine library, allowing you to download and read your purchases – 1up in portrait mode or 2up in landscape mode. Naturally, you can zoom with the regular pinch gestures. Zinio also offers a text-view mode, which is similar to Safari’s new reader mode. While viewing a page in text-view, you can scale the text, but you can also copy and paste or email content – which is handy if you want to grab some code or shell script from a technical magazine.
How does Zinio for iPad compare to reading real magazines?
I’ve tried reading eBooks and Magazines digitally before. My experience reading long PDFs on a monitor has always left something to be desired. It’s hard to put a finger on it – but viewing an A4 portrait page on a landscape monitor and sharing that monitor with other apps has always been a little jarring. And naturally, having to be glued to a desk or laptop means there are always other distractions from Facebook and Mail popping up sporadically.
I’m pleasantly surprised to say that my experience on the tablet was much more positive. The 10″ tablet is pretty much perfect for reading full-sized magazines and technical books on the go. You can fit a full A4 page to a screen and usually read it without having to zoom. This is really handy, as being able to read through an article by flicking between pages and not having to constantly pan around a page bigger than the screen makes a huge different. Combine this with the lack of other distractions on the tablet and the handy contents panel that appears when you tap the screen makes Zinio a wonderful experience.
How does Zinio compare to other tablet reading experiences?
Zinio content is presumably an enhanced PDF, so it’s interesting to compare the experience to reading a PDF through iBooks or Kindle. While the experience isn’t massively different from iBooks, it’s noticeable that rendering pages (even on the iPad 1) is a lot quicker. iBooks takes a while to load complex pages – so this is a definite bonus for Zinio; you can flick through a magazine painlessly. The text-only view is also a bonus – you can read a complex page comfortably in a linear ‘top-to-bottom’ fashion.
While the iPad lacks the battery life of the Kindle (and the lighter weight), it does allow for faster page skipping and full-colour rendering. I mostly read technical and entertainment magazines, so I find a 10″ tablet perfect for my uses. Personally, I feel only the Kindle DX is valid competition to the iPad for reading these formats, but the Kindle doesn’t offer as many magazines and Zinio does.
What magazines are available on Zinio?
A lot of the big hitters have already adopted Zinio as a distribution platform. Some of the magazines that you can find on Zinio include; Maxim, Edge, PC World, PC Gamer, Xbox Magazine, PS3 Magazine, New Scientist and Men’s Fitness. There are hundreds if not thousands of magazines available – Zinio is equivalent to visiting your local corner-shop and browsing the magazine shelf. You won’t find everything in the larger WH Smiths, but you will find most things.
Other Strengths and Weaknesses of Zinio
The strengths of Zinio are evident from the review above. It provides a convenient mechanism for subscribing to your favourite magazines and delivers them in a pleasant fashion. Technically, the platform seems to be stable and you can read your magazine on the train / plane on your iPad and on your PC back in the office. While I’ve not experienced any problems with the app a number of AppStore reviews state there are crashing issues with the latest versions. Still, the app seems to be well supported, so I suspect these problems will be sorted soon if you’re unfortunate to run into them,
There are a few features that I hope to see as Zinio develops. For instance, it would be nice to be able to search through your e-zine library. When you have a stack of magazines, finding a given article in my back-issues will be reminiscent of going through that stack of magazines in your basement.
Another down side of Zinio is that you’re naturally tied to using their technology to read your content. You never really get your hands on the files, and so if an upgrade to the Zinio app presents crashing problems on your tablet – you’re in their hands waiting for an update. While not a massive problem, I do feel the creep of DRM coming in once again.
Prices on Zinio can vary. Some magazines offer a hefty discount over their printed brethren but others offer only a tiny discount. Either way, you can usually get a pretty good deal if you go for a subscription – you can get a whole year of Edge magazine on Zinio for the price of getting only 5 or so issues from your local newsagent.
Zinio is a very competent and convenient platform for reading magazines. There’s a vast library of content available which is only going to get bigger as other magazines see what they’re missing out on. The iPad and 10″ Android Tablets like the Xoom are the perfect size for reading full-sized magazines in a digital format. Zinio has encouraged me to read magazines regularly once again – and now that I can read these magazines on the go – I’m definitely going to read (and buy) more magazines.
If you read, or used to read, magazines of any type – It’s definitely worth giving Zinio a shot. Download the app and purchase an issue of your favourite magazine.