Image via CrunchBaseWhen I first saw the Apple iPad in action, I could not wait to see what publishers would have in store for their native applications. I imagined those moving pictures and cool animations as depicted in Harry Potter movies. Unfortunately, while some magazines such as Popular Science have excelled in engaging the reader in the new medium, and others such as GQ have managed to deliver content at a reasonable price ($2.99 per issue), others have begun their iPad journey with either lackluster innovation, a high price tag ($5.99 for SI, really?), or both (e.g. Time). This led me to Zinio.
Think of Zinio as your personal magazine rack, holder, and recycling bin all in one. You can peruse the store for new magazines, browse through samples of many top selling publications, and purchase an issue after setting up an account. Your new magazines are then downloaded to your iPad, and subscriptions are automatically updated when the newest issue arrives. You can choose to delete items when your library gets a bit large, and you can always add more (until you reach your iPad's capacity - each magazine takes up between 10-60 megabytes of space). I've found a decent selection of magazines for reasonable prices (I've been sucked into buying several for less than $10 for the year). My current library includes ESPN the Magazine, PC Magazine, and Popular Photography. OK, you got me, Maxim's in there too.
Make no mistake, Zinio is not necessarily an innovative application. There is no streaming video or moving parts in these magazines. Essentially, the app is a PDF reader, with your magazines being the PDF's. However, before you go storming off to the App Store in search of "real" magazine apps, keep this in mind: Zinio does what it's supposed to do, and it does it well. Once downloaded, you can tap on links within a table of contents, and instantly be taken to the article's page. There are also web links that can be opened in a built-in browser or switched over to Safari. Pinch and Tap zooming in and out works well, and you'll need to do this often, as the print for the full page views can be quite small. Even with this in mind, the interface is smooth, and the text sharpens quickly for a 1X-2X zoom. I also love the pictorial table of contents that can be accessed at any time by tapping the bottom of the screen.
Although I had not heard of it until purchasing the iPad, I got the sense that Zinio had a reasonably strong following prior to its iPad release. I'd be quite surprised if Zinio's popularity has not skyrocketed since the iPad's release. Currently, it is the best combination of price and quality for viewing publications on the iPad. As mentioned in an earlier iPad post, I don't envision using my iPad to read books, but I do see a strong future for magazines. And until the big publishers start issuing more reasonably priced subscriptions, Zinio seems well suited to reap the benefits of new customers looking for ways to reduce their clutter (paper copies) and have easy access to magazines for lower prices.
Zinio is available for free in the App Store.