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Summary:

I admit I haven’t looked at the Zinio Reader for quite some time.  It must have been over five years ago that Zinio debuted their innovative system for delivering and displaying magazines in digital form and I tried it when it first came out and liked […]

I admit I haven’t looked at the Zinio Reader for quite some time.  It must have been over five years ago that Zinio debuted their innovative system for delivering and displaying magazines in digital form and I tried it when it first came out and liked it but quickly determined that using it on a laptop just didn’t cut it for me.  It was never comfortable to read a magazine with a notebook computer in my lap so I found it cumbersome to use the Zinio Reader in the times and places I most wanted to read magazines.  I have used it a few times with full sized Tablet PCs and the experience Zinio yields on that platform is quite nice indeed.  When I first got the Sony U I must admit I never considered Zinio since the screen is so small I didn’t think it would provide a very good magazine reading experience.  It wasn’t until I heard techADDICTION co-host Kevin Tofel mention Zinio in his last Commute-cast podcast that made me think about giving it a try on the Sony.  I am sure glad I did.  Continue on if you want to read what Zinio is like on the small Sony U.

The Zinio reader provides an unobtrusive interface so maximum screen real estate can be dedicated to displaying the magazine pages.  This is very important on the U and one of the reasons that Zinio works so well on small screens.  The display technology that Zinio uses allows zooming up or down and still displaying the page contents crisply and cleanly.  The Zinio interface is well optimized for manipulating the digital magazines and the experience of reading a paper magazine is reproduced nicely, with several enhancements.

Zinio_landscape

Zinio works equally well on the Sony U in both portrait and landscape.  The Reader program always makes the page(s) fit the screen no matter the resolution or orientation which is why either orientation works fine.  The initial view in landscape on the Sony is a two page spread of the magazine, just like you see when you open a paper version.  The spread is automatically sized to fit the small Sony screen which renders the article text unreadable, but this is actually a good thing.  A digital magazine reader application must give the reader a sense of the overview of the pages in the magazine to reproduce the experience you get when reading the paper version and Zinio does this very well.

The Zinio interface works so well on the Tablet (and equally well on the Sony) and moving around in the magazine is a joy.  The cursor changes depending on the position on the page to indicate the most logical action to take by tapping there.  Move the cursor to the left or right edge of the page and the cursor indicates the page flipping, which is exactly what happens when you tap.  Tap anywhere on the page and the display zooms in to make everything bigger for reading.  Tap again and it zooms back out.  Simple but very effective and working with the pages is intuitive and nicely executed, even on a very small screen like the Sony’s.  Zinio has a lot of key shortcuts which on first blush you would not think the Sony would benefit from since there is no keyboard.  Not so, as I quickly found out and this makes Zinio not only easier to use but quite fun.  The Sony joypad on the upper right of the device (in landscape) duplicates the directional keys on a standard keyboard and Zinio makes very good use of them.  Push the left side of the joypad and Zinio flips back a page, right it flips forward.  Very nice.  Pressing the button in the middle of the joypad zooms in on the page and a second push zooms back out.  It makes manipulating the pages on the small screen second nature.

Zinio_landscape_zoom

There are several advantages that digital magazines offer over their paper counterpart and these advantages come to full fruition with the Tablet PC.  NOTE: I am using the Tablet OS on the Sony U so I cannot state if these features are enabled on non-Tablet versions.  Zinio allows highlighting passages right on the page, sketching things on the page and even annotating special information, all of which stays with the page for future reference which is pretty cool.  The primary advantage for reading magazines using Zinio on the Sony, at least for me, is the ability to use snipping tools to capture images of the magazine pages, even with my notes intact.  This is a tremendous utility for me and one not easily (if at all) duplicated with a paper magazine.

Zinio_capture

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate to both Tablet owners who are not familiar with Zinio how it can provide a pleasant reading experience.  I also want to show Sony U owners that even though the screen is very small don’t discount how well Zinio works on that platform.  I have very little time to just sit and read magazines but since I can now do that with the Sony I can catch up on reading anywhere.

  1. I don’t find the Zinio Reader very enjoyable to use. For me the metaphor of putting a paper magazine on screen doesn’t work well. The Missouri School of Journalism is currently experimenting with an electronic version of their newspaper that works a lot better in my opinion. I talk about this at some length in my most recent posting at The Vermont Slate. http://vermontslate.blogspot.com/2005/04/rethinking-interface.html

    The direct link to their registration page, if you want to see it for yourself, is http://www.columbiamissourian.com/EmPRINT/

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  2. Hi Mark. I checked out the EmPRINT version of the Missourian you mention. It is indeed a nice electronic version. The only thing I did not like about it is that it is PDF (Acrobat) based and it takes over the whole screen, making it impossible to do other things while it is opened. If it just has to take the whole screen then it should at least scale the page to fit the whole screen. Running on my high res external monitor a lot of the screen was back with a band of the magazine in the middle. It was not very attractive. If you want to see a great example of how a magazine can take full advantage of the PDF format, look at Home Computer Magazine:

    http://www.homecomputermagazine.com/

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  3. I LOVE Zinio on my U750P!! As if people at Starbuck’s don’t stare enough let them see you flipping through a magazine on it! I am a magazine packrat so electronic mags are the only way to go for me. Since the Zinio mags are searchable and the hyperlinks work I refer back to them often.

    H.

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  4. Also, not sure where to post this but has anyone tried Meedio ( http://www.meedio.com ) on their U? I have been using it for a couple of months now. Turns the U into a Media Center PC without the clunky Media Center OS. It has a huge user community that creates themes and plugins that are free. Even found some touch screen themes that look amazing on my U.

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