Digital mag’s greatest strength is a weakness on UMPCs


Zinio_4_1Most folks know that I went solely to digital magazine subscriptions a few years back. There’s a few exceptions since some of my favorite mags aren’t yet in a digital format, but by and large I’m all digital. Since I’ve migrated from a 12.1-inch tablet screen to a 7-inch screen, I’ve struggled a bit with my magazines. One would think that the experience would generally be positive on a UMPC, much like eBook reading. While I personally find eBooks to be without equal on a UMPC, the same isn’t said of my digital magazine reading for one very important reason: eBooks are meant to be reformatted for the screen they’re on, but digital mags aren’t. At least they aren’t with my favorite digital magazine application, Zinio. Read on to get a feel for what I’m seeing…

I’ll say up front that Zinio is a phenomenal digital magazine platform and I strongly recommend it. There are also other options available for magazine reading, but Zinio is my favorite by far, plus they offer the content I’m looking for. The pics below are merely to illustrate the challenges that Zinio and other digital content providers face with a smaller screen device. Additionally, I’d hate for a new UMPC owner to get all excited for their next issue of "Geeks R Us", only to find that the reading experience leaves something to be desired.

Over the weekend, I downloaded the latest issue of PC Magazine on my Samsung Q1, and after some enjoyable regular eBook reading with eReader, I popped open Zinio to see this two-page display of my magazine. Yes, I can zoom in and will do that later in this post; this "shock and awe" photo is just to show you the first impression.


Granted, you can change the display in Zinio’s options to only show one page at a time, so I gave that a try in the native 800 x 480 resolution; unfortunately, that didn’t help, which was to be expected:


Next up, I decided to rotate the display 90-degrees. This helped tremendously and made the page relatively readable without zooming. What if you want (or need) to zoom in, however? You might be better off back in Landscape mode.


After going back to Landscape, I then tried each of the three zoom settings that Zinio allows. Upon zooming, which is a simple tap of the touchscreen, you can zoom to full page width, 2/3 page width or 1/3 page width; each is illustrated below.

Full page width:


2/3 page width:


1/3 page width:


There’s definitely some personal preference involved here; what works for my four-eyes may not work best for your two. Regardless of which view looks best to you, there’s going to be plenty of zooming and scrolling; much more so than with a standard eBook. The point here is that this type of application really doesn’t lend itself well to a UMPC simply because the very strength of the digital content (an exact digital replica that can’t be modified) is the very weakness of the experience on a UMPC.

I’m personally hoping we see some improvements here from all digital content providers because it’s not just digital magazines. It wasn’t that long ago when I struggled with the Vongo movie download service on the Q1 due to the 1024 x 768 Flash interface that Vongo uses. I don’t expect every software or service vendor to re-write their apps for 800 x 480 screens, but I do hope that going forward, they consider this resolution. Perhaps the need for an exact replica of a digital magazine isn’t needed after all and in the future, maybe the content can be reformatted based on the screen size. By the way: were IS that Times Reader feature we heard about in Vista? Unless I missed it, it’s not in the latest beta build…




Hi Kevin,

Nice post. As a digital magazine publisher, we’re aware of the limitations of our technology and are constantly looking for ways to improve reader experience.

As always, the squeakiest wheels will get greased first. As adoption for UMPCs grow, we’ll be able to focus more on that particular delivery model.


In my opinion the odd screen size is the major issue I have with my umpc. I hope they fix that in the future.

Bill Miranda

Hmm…would it work better if you used 800×600 and unchecked the “maintain aspect ratio” on the display properties so that you were in pan mode on the display?

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