Zinio brings Digital Versions of Popular Magazines to your Desktop
Aug 9, 2003 (Updated Oct 10, 2003)
Zinio (www.zinio.com) offers digital subscriptions to about 50 different magazines, including PC Magazine, The Sporting News, Business Week, Seventeen, and Science for reading on PC's and Mac's. Single copies going back about 1 year are also available. Zinio offers a complete package to magazine publishers and subscribers, including creating the digital version of the magazine, free reading software for users, delivery of the digital content to users, back issues, "digital" reply cards, hypertext links in advertisements and articles, and a few other benefits that you might not get with hard copy versions. Zinio's prices are high (a 1 year subscription to PC Magazine is $35), but most of the 50 magazines available on Zinio will allow you to switch your print subscription to Zinio's digital version, allowing you to look for better subscription deals. The digital versions of magazines are duplicates of the print versions, down to the insert cards and fold out back cover advertisements.
While I don't think reading the latest issue of PC Magazine or Business Week with the Zinio reader will ever match reading a magazine in bed at night, Zinio's digital versions do offer a few advantages that tend to grow on you, including
- searching your issue for keywords
- sharing your copy with other readers by email
- hypertext links in articles
- highlighting text and adding digital sticky notes to articles
- archiving back issues on your computer or cdroms rather than in the attic or a closet.
Subscribing and Receiving your Magazines
Subscribing to a digital magazine is straightforward, select a magazine (PC Magazine, in my case), and checkout using Visa, Mastercard or Amex credit cards. Fortunately, I received and took advantage of a special offer to subscribe to the Digital version of PC Magazine, because their list price for this subscription is $35 for 22 issues. My only problem occurred because I use Netscape 7, which is not supported for downloading or purchasing on Zinio.com. After switching to Internet Explorer, I was quickly a digital subscriber. Zinio started sending an email to me about 3 weeks before the cover date of each issue telling me a new issue was ready for download. Clicking on a link in the mail message takes you to Zinio.com where you can download your issue, and then read it offline. If you delete your copy, or want to also download to a different computer, Zinio allows you to go back and download each issue you've received up to 3 times. Zinio downloading and new notification options are very flexible, and include:
- the "Check for Magazines" command in the Zinio reader software (which checks for new issues in all of your subscriptions)
- when you log into the Zinio website, it offers a link for downloading new issues whenever any are available
- the Zinio "Delivery Manager", which can be set to run in the background on your computer and will either download issues automatically (in the background or with a download status indicator displayed), or the Zinio can be set to blink in the Task bar when new issues are available to download'
Subscription pricing on the Zinio website appears to be the same as the hard copy subscription list price. All of the magazines I checked allow you to convert print subscriptions to digital versions, allowing you search out your best price for subscriptions, and then switch to a digital subscription. For example, you can convert your PC Magazine print subscription to a digital version here: http://www.zdmcirc.com/zdmcirc/digital/index.html and you can convert your Business Week print subscription to digital here: http://www.businessweek.com/digital/convert.htm
The digital version of PC Magazine runs about 20mb an issue. My internet connection is via a cable modem, and it takes just a couple of minutes to download new issues. If you have a dial up connection, Zinio offers a version of their reader software that allows you to resume your download if you lose your connection.
In addition to pricing, another weakness of Zinio is their limited selection of magazines, just over 50 as I write this. Many are computer magazines, but a few other well known magazines, like The Sporting News, Business Week, Seventeen, Popular Science, Motor Trend, and Harvard Business Review are also offered. A complete list of available magazines is shown on this web page: http://www.zinio.com/help.
Reading your Magazines
The Zinio reader, available as a free download, required about 13 mb of diskspace on my Dell 4550 Pentium 4 computer system running Windows XP. A Mac version of the software is also available. System requirements for PC users are modest (Win 98 or better, IE5 or later or AOL 5 or later, a 300 mhz or faster PC with 128 mb ram and 250mb of free disk space and a video card with 3D acceleration). Netscape 6 or 7 is not supported, though version 4.7 is. The installation proceeded smoothly on my system, and was able to install the software where I chose.
The Zinio reader might remind users vaguely of Adobe's Acrobat reader, though it has a cleaner, simpler interface. By default, when you load a magazine, your presented with a two page view of your magazine, as if it were laying flat on a table. The user interface is intuitive and effective. At the top is a simple menu allowing to switch magazines, change options, print, turn on the hiliter, add a sticky note, or choose to "email" this issue to someone. Across the bottom is a scroll bar which shows your progress through magazine, and which you can move to go to any section of the magazine, ie, the the middle or the end. (I wish this scroll bar showed page numbers, though) An icon to go to the table contents is available, as are buttons to move forward or back one page, or to jump to front cover or back page.
With the magazine fully shown in "two page mode" on my 19" monitor I can read the small text, but its a strain. I would have to zoom in to read it comfortably, by clicking the mouse once on the screen. This zooms to one of three zoom settings you choose in the options menu; full page width, 2/3 page or 1/3 page. I zoom to full page, which enlarges the view so that the width of one page is shown on the screen, and about 1/2 of the vertical lengh of a page is shown. To scroll down the page, you can either use the scroll wheel on your mouse, or "grab" the screen with your mouse pointer (which looks like a small hand) and pull it up or down. Either is a little awkward, when you scroll with your mouse wheel, the text goes briefly out of focus when scrolling. If you use the "grab" mode, the portion of text you are "pulling onto the screen does not "show up" until you let go of the screen with the mouse.
I find both of these scrolling effects to be slightly annoying, so when I am reading a magazine with the Zinio reader, I switch to "single page" mode, then hit F11 for full screen mode, which removes the menu bars at the top and bottom of the screen. In this mode, I find I can read text (still smaller than I'd like, though) on one complete page without any zoom or scrolling. Moving your mouse to the left or right side of the page changes the mouse cursor to page flip mode, where you can click to turn pages. Hitting escape brings you back to the normal viewing mode, to print, for example. Again, using the mouse to read a magazine seems intuitive. Zinio offers a version for Tablet PC's that I'll bet works well, since you can orient the screen so that its aspect ratio more closely matches the orientation of the written page.
Printing Printing options are limited to printing whatever you are viewing, printing two pages at a time if you're viewing in two page mode, one page if viewing in one page mode. Each page of the magazine prints out on one piece of paper. Print quality is terrific on my old HP 812 ink jet.
Hiliting and Notes One of the neat features of the Zinio is being able to hilite selected text with a yellow background or add a "sticky note" to a page. Next time you open the magazine, an "annotation" list will appear with a list of hilites and notes added to the issue, from which you can choose one to jump to.
Emailing an Issue You can "email" an issue to someone from the Zinio Reader menu. Just put in their email address, decide whether or not you want to include your notes or hiliting, type in a message, and hit send. In a few minutes that person will receive an email from Zinio providing a link for them to download the magazine.
Searching Clicking on "Find" button opens a dialog box where you can enter search terms. On my 2.66GHz Dell system it only takes a few seconds for the Zinio reader to search though a complete issue and offer a list of hits which you can click on and be take to that page. Not much info is provided in the list of "hits", and you'll need to go to the pages themselves to see which hits best meet your needs.
Digital Magazines aren't for everyone. Even with a 19" monitor, reading issues is not as easy on my eyes as I'd like. But, Zinio does a great job reproducing the look and feel of the real magazine, and the reader software works well enough. Pricing is too high, but since converting mail subscribers to digital probably saves publishers a few dollars which means most (perhaps all) will let you convert your print subscriptions to digital format for free. And Zinio's advantages, which are real, include being able to archive issues on you hard drive, easy searching, and easy notetaking. Zinio's also starting to include "rich content" (animations, live interviews, music, etc) with some magazines, which will hopefully drive interest in this technology. If you're even the least bit interested, go to the Zinio website and download a few of the free sample issues available. You might just grow to like it.