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Zinio’s iPad Magazines Suggest Disappointing Future

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 (s aapl) 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.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Evolution of the e-Book Market

62 Responses to “Zinio’s iPad Magazines Suggest Disappointing Future”

  1. I have to admit that the latest software release is a marked improvement. The major issue that I have is that I can’t start a download and then browse a different magazine.

    The page renders are faster, not iBook/KindleReader fast but they are getting there. The nice thing is that more magazines are being supported.

    All in all it’s one of my more frequently used apps.

    Note that if you get a new iPad (mine had a charging problem) you have to re-download everything and the DRM is painful. I’m not blaming Zinio for the DRM as I’m sure that it’s the magazine industry pushing it.

  2. Dale Edmonds

    Zinio is one of my favourite apps on the iPad. I have a few things I’d like to change on it – being able to bookmark/dogear certain pages would be good – but the experience of curling up with a favourite magazine – and taking screenshots is the digital equivalent of ripping out pages for a file.

    I picked up a copy of a magazine today and in the line, checked on my ipad to see if it was available on Zinio because I’d have much rather bought it there than had the print version. Cheaper overall for subscriptions, always on hand and a pleasure to read, at least the mostly home interior, travel and food ones, for me.

  3. Awww- Gayle THANK YOU!! (and thanks to all of the people who have emailed us off this list to share positive thoughts and recommendations for future titles and enhancements).

    Please send me an email – we love when we hear positive experiences and I would like to say thanks by filling your Zinio library with a few digital magazines, on us.

    And by the way, we are adding a bunch of new titles soon, so keep watching.

  4. Maybe it’s me but after I purchased the first available issue of “O Mag” when Zinio first went live and LOVED it, I found myself subscribing with the following issue. I don’t have bunches of time to read mags but I love being able to read exactly what I want and not missing anything. The second it takes to download the page is fine for me. I just wish they would get the US version of Shape since they have, I believe, the Greece and Hungary versions.

  5. Chris Parker

    I’ve used Zinio in the past and the worst thing that actually puts me off using the product is the prices. Here’s an example I came across this week: A friend of mine in work bought the latest Computer Music mag and it had this really great article in it that made me think it would be worth buying the single issue so I could read and re-read the techniques.

    As I mentioned, I’ve used Zinio in the past so they were the first digital mag company I thought of. Computer music costs £5.99 in the shops, so I was disheartened to find out that Zinio wanted to charge me nearly twice that amount (nearly £10!) for the single issue! So lets recap, no printing and distribution costs, no free dvd, twice the price.

    I’ve yet to get my copy of the mag but even thought I would prefer a digital copy I certainly wont be paying nearly twice the price of the real mag.

  6. Nathan

    Hi Marene,

    I’ll be contacting you if I don’t receive my June issue. I’m not sure if it’s out yet or not. I’ll have to contact Macworld and see. Is there an update in the works that addresses the blurry text issue when zooming? I downloaded the free issues you get with the app and it started giving me a headache after reading when zoomed. I found the text button at the bottom, but would honestly prefer viewing them the way I would if it was the print version.

    Thanks for your response and I’m happy to see that Zinio is listening to feedback from their members.

    • Hello Nathan,

      Thanks for your interest in Zinio.

      In order to ensure a timely response to your inquiries, please contact Zinio Support directly. You can send an email to our [email protected] address, or call us directly at 888-946-4666. We’re eager to provide answers and assistance, and we’re better able to do so through our established support channels.

      Thanks again,

      Zachary Lance
      Zinio Customer Support

  7. Good to know Zinio is listening in this forum. I would repeat the same issues even with the latest version…
    Only a subset of titles available (any timeline on when to expect the rest?)
    Blurry text even in zoom (need higher quality instead of text-only view)
    Magazine page rendering delay/lag

  8. Nathan

    Wow, I’m almost sad I downloaded this app a little while ago. I saw it in the app store and thought, “awesome, I can get my magazines on my iPad and I’ll be saving a couple trees at the same time”. After downloading the app, I called the magazine publishers and asked to have my print switched to digital, but after reading all these comments, I’m wondering if I should call them back. I’m still trying to figure out how to link my subscription from the publisher to my Zinio account. Haven’t figured that one out yet.

    • Maren

      Hello Nathan,

      Maren from Zinio CS here. The transition from print to digital unfortunately won’t be instantaneous, because we need to receive a new subscriber file from the publisher . We can however fill you in on any issues in-between this transition. If you email [email protected] and flag it Attention Maren, I’ll grab it and follow up with you further.

      Kind regards,

      Zinio Customer Support

  9. Bruno

    I downloaded the Zinio iPad app yesterday and settled down on my couch to read about Robert Downey Jr’s latest escapades in the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

    The first thing I noticed was that RS on Zinio was little more than a glorified PDF with clunky link implementation. But I was sort of willing to let that pass if only I could actually read the text properly!! The trick is, in RS’s case, you can’t! Try zooming in and the whole thing becomes blurry! Not blurry in a “OMG I can’t read anything” sort of way; but blurry in a “why I am getting a headache and can’t seem to quite focus on the page” kind of way!

    It was a huge disappointment and definitely one experience I will not be repeating. I know some Zinio apps have an option to display a page as text only with controllable font options. But those, like RS, which lack this option are a crappy experience, so stay away from them!

  10. Robert Werthman

    There are so many great apps for the iPad but this is definitely not one of them. I subscribed to Mac World mag and it’s a mediocre experience at best. I would love to subscribe to more mags but until they radically improve the app, I’ll stick with my news reader. Unable to delete magazines, loading pages in real time, watt are these people thinking? can’t wait for my subscription to expire so I can delete this app.

  11. richard
    • But even more so, we were excited that any Zinio subscriber would be able to read any title they bought before the iPad, as soon as they downloaded the app.

    No, you can view a tiny subset of the zinio titles on iphone/ipad, this point is very misleading IMO. The app is free, so at least you haven’t taken more money from me but please be honest and open about what the app does and doesn’t do.

  12. Zachary Lance here, Director of Zinio Customer Support. I’ve been with the company for a little over two years now, and I’ve seen a lot of changes. John: In your comment, you mentioned problems with the old software. That’s completely fair… the old software wasn’t perfect. But now we’ve got new software (Reader4 beta), and we’re definitely paying close attention to what customers are saying about it. We’re as concerned as you are about the reading experience – and are soliciting all the feedback we can get on our current reader. We’re proud of what we’ve got now, but we know there are still improvements to be made. By all means, please keep your past experiences in mind – then compare them to your new experiences and let us know where we can improve. Olly himself has done a remarkable job at sharing his feedback about our iPad app, and as you can see from the posts above, has created a sincere interest within Zinio. We want to hear from you, too! Simply contact me at [email protected] and I will ensure that your feedback reaches our development team. You can even call me directly at 415-494-2786. I’ll be happy to hear from you.

  13. I was still a subscriber to PC Magazine when it ceased paper publication and went to publishing only through a Zinio PC reader. The Zinio reader was as clunky on my desktop as described here on the iPad, and after about 3 issues I canceled my subscription. Let’s hope the iPad version of Wired being developed will show how it can really be done and use the full potential of the iPad.

  14. Mark Smith

    What is frustrating me is that the Zinio app is not available on the Appstore in all countries. I’ve tried multiple times to their customer support (as I am a subscriber here in Switzerland) so so far nothing has happened… Zinio, please sort this out.

  15. Although I appreciate Zinio’s response and their seeming interest in improving their app on the iPad, my personal experience with their Mac app has been completely frustrating

    • and it’s been out for several years!!

    I started using it, and buying magazines, only to find it losing or not being able to load my magazines, crashing, and eventually getting so bad I deleted it from my computer.

    I contacted them several times to resolve the issues, with no response other than to tell me to reinstall the app. I am not the only person to have these problems!

    I can only hope that Zinio has got a new development team, and a new standard set, for the iPad product.

    One simple solution to the load time issue might be to pre-load the next page and the previous page to the one the user is reading… I’ve been wondering all along why Zinio has not (or doesn’t seem to be) implemented this no-brainer feature on the Mac version.

  16. Olly,

    I’m the Zinio CMO that Brian referenced in his earlier post. We appreciate your candor and take your and the rest of comments on this blog seriously. Your points appears to be specific about iPad functionality, but don’t seem to mention the positive impact on publishing the Zinio UNITY platform affords reading fans, the design achievements we have made with our sister magazine VIVmag, and other various digital reading enhancements we have made available to the industry.

    Let me know if you have a few minutes to catch up by phone. I’d love to give you the full picture. (my contact info is in Brian’s earlier post). I hope that you, and your followers keep watching Zinio’s progress on the iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC, netbooks, and other upcoming devices and distribution points, and that future efforts will share a sense of excitement with Zinio.



    • What is the problem with the Zinio IPad App? I downloaded the app on Thursday,Feb.25 and purchased a magazine. I have not been able to access it at all. I can’t sign in and the website doesn’t even recognize that I have a Internet connection. I get a message stating I need to have an Internet connection to use Zinio. I am so frustrated..How do I get a refund so I can purchase the print issue of the magazine?

  17. Hi Brian,

    It’s Olly here. Thanks for taking the time to respond to the article. I’d like to respond to your response, I’ll keep it short and direct as I’m still trying to get comfy on this iPad keyboard!

    • Limited Development Time
      The six weeks excuse just doesn’t wash with me. First, look at what other developers have put together for the iPad. See the Marvel app, see The Guardian’s Eyewitness app, see Coolhunting or even Alice Lite.

    And if you really have to ship a substandard product early as opposed to nothing at all, ship nothing. Take another week or two, polish the app so that it’s worthy of the platform and, most importantly, worthy of your paying customers.

    Moving to my other points, which you referred to as fixes. What I identified weren’t ‘fixes’ they are all essentials. It’s essential that pages load quickly, it’s essential that it’s simple and quick for me to purchase content and it’s essential that I can delete said content from my library.

    • Slow Page Turning
      From what I can tell, Zinio isn’t displaying text per se. Correct me if I’m wrong but these are effectively very hi-res images with the occasional video overlaid. I can’t select or otherwise interact with text (unless I’m in the paradigm-breaking text mode). So Zinio displays high-fidelity images.

    But this still doesn’t explain why pages take so long to load. I’ve toyed with Marvel’s app, with The Guardian’s app and even read a complete graphic novel in Comic Zeal – in gorgeous zoomable high-fidelity – and not had to endure a one second wait per page.

    Everyone else got it right, why couldn’t Zinio? There’s 2,400 titles and countless customers that are done a disservice by these waiting times. The actual reading experience was the one thing – the key factor – to get right with the first release.

    • Lack of In-App Purchasing
      It doesn’t matter if the current purchasing experience complies with Apple guidelines. It’s a crappy experience for your customers. You know it and I know it.

    If you don’t want to split revenue with Apple via in-app purchases I can understand, however at the very least you’ve got to streamline and polish the purchasing experience.

    • Inability to delete magazines
      I still can’t work out how to do this. If you have to insist that such a basic feature exists and then you have to explain it to your users, you’re implementing it wrong.

    (And it’s not that i’m running low on storage space, it’s more that Car & Driver and Macworld are of no interest at all to me. I don’t want to archive them, I want them gone.)

    • Disappointing Future of Magazines
      The enhanced editions could barely be considered so. A video (that only plays at full screen) and a few hyperlinked bits of text do not mean a magazine can be considered ‘enhanced’ or, to use Zinio’s own laughable terminology, ‘interactive’.

    It’s a good thing that I’m running out of steam typing on the iPad keyboard as I’m not at all happy with the app.

    I’ll sum up with something that seems obvious to me: I’d suggest that, instead of trying to innovate, why not first get the core magazine reading experience perfect?


  18. Brian Yu

    My name is Brian. I work for Zinio and worked on the iPad product. I’d like to address some of the points in your post.

    Jeanniey Mullen, our CMO, is happy to address additional comments in person, at 973.204.0023, at [email protected] or via Twitter at @empg. We take every comment and piece of feedback very seriously at Zinio.

    The Zinio app for iPad is a key element of Zinio’s UNITY platform, which allows any subscriber to buy content on any device and read it on any device. We were pretty excited to launch a fully functional newsstand, offering over 2,400 titles, in a short time. But even more so, we were excited that any Zinio subscriber would be able to read any title they bought before the iPad, as soon as they downloaded the app.

    As for some of the features’ downfalls, keep in mind that we developed an application in 6 weeks that normally would launch in 6 months. We made some difficult decisions on what shipped and what didn’t. Unfortunately, some of the fixes you identified could not make it under the tight timelines. We are working on those as we speak. Some of the specifics relating to your post include:

    Slow Page-turning:
    A quick primer on file formats, iBooks display ePub-format books, whereas Zinio displays high-resolution text, images and videos of magazines. Sometimes, the high-fidelity pages can be 10x larger than the equivalent ePub page, so pages can require additional time to load. Nevertheless, we have improved the page-turning speed in our app DRAMATICALLY in our latest testing. We would love to get your feedback on this new version as soon as it’s out (timeline dependent on Apple’s review team).

    No In-app Purchasing:
    We totally agree that the Safari purchasing experience is not ideal. The current Safari-based purchasing experience complies with Apple’s guidelines, and we are working on the next version of our app that will offer an improved in-app purchasing experience.

    Inability to Delete Magazines:
    Users do have the ability to remove magazines from their iPad if you start running low on your 16GB storage space. Tap and hold in version 1.0, or tap the Edit button in version 1.2 or higher. We are working on enabling users to remove and archive those older editions of Macworld and Car and Driver.

    Future Magazine Experience:
    Zinio launched a few enhanced editions for the iPad, such as National Geographic, Macworld and Spin. We labeled this effort Phase 1 of our new magazine reading experience – this is NOT Zinio’s FINAL interpretation of the future of magazines. We are working closely with our publishers to re-think the magazine, using the unique capabilities of the device. You soon will see new experiences launched with selected publications.

    Please stay tuned – this is just the beginning of the tablet revolution, and Zinio will be constantly innovating over the coming months.

  19. agcereniv

    Wow. This is fantastic – you all realize that developers had approximately 6 weeks to do this, right? What they’ve done in that time is nothing short of fantastic. I just wish the Cigar Afficionado, Inc, Fast Company, and Entrepreneur would get on there so they would stop cluttering up my home and office. And, like all other apps, what we have now is not the end. There will be continued development and improvement.

    As far as “enhanced PDF’s” – why do you praise iBook and bash this? There’s nothing extra in the books I’ve seen on the iPad – same experience as the book itself, just on a device. Except it is better than Kindle. And, so, this is better than nothing else (the only other option currently), and it will continue to get better as time goes on. Had to launch with something…

  20. I had so much touble with their Mac app that I would never give them a chance on my iPad. There will be better solutions (and better than what TIME is doing too).

  21. Walt French


    Zinio has been an awful reader on my MacBook for many years; I stopped getting a couple of magazine in e-format because they were so impossible to read.


    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.)

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

    • 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.