62 Comments

Summary:

Just like Apple with its iBookstore, Zinio has established relationships with an impressive array of publications. As such, you can expect to find enhanced editions of magazines Cosmopolitan, T3 and Rolling Stone among others. However, unlike Apple’s iBookstore, Zinio certainly doesn’t live up to the hype.

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Zinio is a magazine store and reader for the iPad. In fact, for now, it’s the magazine store for the iPad, stocking all the biggest titles of which you can purchase one-off issues or even 12 month subscriptions.

Just like Apple with its iBookstore, Zinio has established relationships with an impressive array of publications. As such, you can expect to find enhanced editions of magazines Cosmopolitan, T3, Rolling Stone and Hello among many others. However, unlike Apple’s iBookstore or iBooks app, Zinio certainly doesn’t live up to the hype.

For starters, each page takes around a second to load. Take a moment and imagine that…imagine reading a magazine and waiting an entire second every time you decide to turn a page. Need to quickly flick back and take a glance at that article from a few pages ago? Prepare to wait.

Plus, there’s no in-app purchasing, meaning that you have to leave the app, load Safari, sign in to Zinio’s website and then make a purchase using your credit card. You can’t even use PayPal. In fact, because Zinio’s iPad site login wasn’t working for me, I ended up opening my MacBook Pro and handling the entire purchase on there.

There’s no option, that I could find, for deleting a magazine. I checked the app, the Settings app and even my account settings on Zinio’s site. This means I’m stuck with a couple of freebies: Car & Driver and a rapidly aging edition of Macworld magazine. (There’s also a free copy of National Geographic but I don’t mind keeping that as it fools me into thinking I’m cultured.)

The magazines themselves are just that, magazines. This isn’t Captain Picard’s enhanced edition of Cosmopolitan, just a run of the mill scanned magazine. And while pinch-to-zoom works, zooming in close reveals the low quality of these fuzzy digital magazines.

Any websites that are mentioned will typically have an ugly blue outline to indicate that you can open the site by tapping the text. Aside from that, you’ll be lucky to find the occasional clunky video embedded in an otherwise static page. Welcome to the future, those are your ‘enhancements’.

What worries me here is that Zinio has all the big names wrapped up, as such it might take a while for things to change. In the meantime, I feel embarrassed to use Zinio’s app, to think that this is the future of magazines on my $499 iPad — shoddy ‘enhanced’ PDFs.

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  1. I bought my first Mac – a Mini – 5 years ago to experiment with OS X. A MAcWorld sub magically appeared along with an option to receive it via Zinio.

    Zinio turned out to be truly crap software. Which I soon deleted.

    Why am I not surprised they haven’t changed? Most of the magazines they deal with haven’t gotten their act together, either. Unfortunately.

  2. Please, please, please don’t make the mistake of thinking that Zinio (or any of the other traditional digital edition providers) are the magazine industry’s idea of building compelling experiences for the iPad. The reason so many titles are there now is because so many titles threw in with them years ago in the dawning of the digital edition age. Back then print was still making good money and digital was just this vague idea of the future. Solutions like Zinio offered publishers a way to play with that future without having to really think about it. Producing a DE was so easy – it put zero pressure on operations and made just enough money to cover it’s own cost – that publishers had no reason to pull the plug on them. So when the iPad came along titles already on auto-pilot with Zinio were simply added to their newsstand without even a moment’s thought.

    I can almost guarantee that nobody in the industry – not even the most out of touch, luddite publisher you could possibly find – looks at what is going on in the Zinio app and says “this is it – this is the answer we’ve been looking for!” There is an awareness of what works and what doesn’t. The problem is a deeply rooted operational legacy that is geared to producing and servicing an anemic medium. It’s not simply about having the idea and the vision of the ideal app – it’s about rearranging departments, processes, people, lives in a way that leads to a sustainable and logical execution of that vision. Some publishers will get through that, many won’t. Yet, one thing is certain – we will start to see compelling experiences driven by an editorial, visual, and graphical vision that feeds off of the flow of now rather than bones of the past. Stay tuned.

  3. Software development takes a while, and a truly bespoke iPad reader is a major software project. Most, if not all, of the brands on Zinio also will have their own branded apps with better functionality, but it may take until Q3 or Q4. Zinio also will iterate and improve the functionality of its reader, although given that it uses a common interface for all brands, it’s never going to fully utilize the iPad’s features in a way that’s tailored to a specific brand. Zinio was in the app store on the iPad’s on-sale date, and they traded features and smoothness for time to market. Zinio isn’t the end of the story for how these brands will work on this platform.

  4. I too have been disappointed by the Zinio experience, mostly because the possibilities are so great.

    And here’s how you delete Car and Driver. First you have to download it. That’s right, you have to download the entire issue by opening it and letting itself complete the download of the content. What you are seeing is basically just the cover. The tiny blue down arrow apparently means that the content still needs to be downloaded.

    This process is indicative of the entire experience btw.

    1. Thanks for explaining how to delete a magazine…It was driving me crazy being able to delete SOME, and not others!

      Pretty strange though…must download to be able to delete… ehh.

  5. Zinio’s iPad Magazines Suggest Disappointing Future « Apple News Daily Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    [...] Zinio’s iPad Magazines Suggest Disappointing Future [...]

  6. I’ve been a long time user of Zinio since it allows me to get magazines on my macbook for traveling. Note that I only buy magazines that are under 10 bucks for a year, full price just doesn’t make sense for what this gives you.

    The ipad app is ok, not great and I agree with the comments above. However, if they manage to keep the price down and speed up the interface it will make a nice fill in.

    Sadly I fear that they are going to see that it’s getting popular and raise the prices, if you look at the single issue price of Macworld it’s 6.99, that’s just insane.

    The other nit is that the magazines are heavily drm’d, if you move to a new machine you’ll have to redownload everything all over again. This caught me by surprise on a flight with no connectivity.

  7. Inability to view/download my library of already bought issues is a deal breaker for me.

  8. The ball is in Zinio’s court.

    If they can get the reader right, than somebody else will come along and grab the market.

    How hard is it to make a fast reader? Not rocket science!

  9. Ah, it’s so nice to see that you’re on the right track. Even as a teeny tiny (for now) Canadian publisher, it was obvious to us from the very first announcement that the iPad was going to be a whole new playing field and those publishers who are nimble (read “small”) and willing to take risks (read “what have WE got to lose?”) are likely going to be bringing out apps that are just as good, if not better, than established publishers, who ahve sooooo many constiuencies to satisfy.

    Right now, those who are getting it like Time and Reuters are going to gain huge credibility with iPad users from the very start. We hope to be among that group after we launch our iPad app next month. Those who, like GQ or the Zinio lads, seem to have missed the iPad user experience are going to have a hard time catching up.

    Sorry for the shill, but we little guys have to do wahtever we can to promote ourseleves.

  10. First, I’m not some big Zinio fan, but people need to realize what its purpose is. As a way of delivering traditional print editions in electronic form Zinio provides a fair solution with a few minor annoyances that can be massaged out.

    As for the “enhanced” content. You know, I was a developer in the 90’s building all those crap Macromedia Director “enhanced” content items on CDROM. I’ve seen PopSci, and Time’s initial efforts and if this is the direction we are going to go backwards to, these individually created content items than I will stick to Zinio’s print analog any day. We have the web, we have HTML 5, I want all my magazine issues on a shelf that I can pick and choose from. Not 20 different “enhanced” apps cluttering my home screens. I am a rich media developer, and I don’t want to see this. It is a step backwards. There is room for both traditional print in electronic form, and the enhanced stuff, Zinio’s purpose I think is clear. Now they need to speed it up, fix the bugs, and allow “all” of their content to be on the iPad. (Though this last one is more likely an Apple constraint.)

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