Zinio’s iPad Magazines Suggest Disappointing Future

62 Comments

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.

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62 Comments

ASFx

Zinion hasn’t been working for me over the last few days. Their site is “down for maintenance” and I am unable to read any of my magazines… Anyone else have this problem or is it just me?

Renaud Timmers

Zinio is a lame duck, poorly flowing from one topic to another… I agree there is some improvement, though that may be due to slowly learn how to cope with the snail stuttering… Your content is towering over the clumsy structure of the project! That could be improved if you put some truely gifted lay-out and editing experts? Do make a further effort to make it a bliss to read your excellent Zinio stuff.
I hope that quality will remain your main target, efficiency improvement requires stamina and solid rewards! It is the same issur in my hospital! Dr. R.W.Timmers

Vic

This article is, like so may things now in the bowels of the Internet, sorely out of date. I just found Zinio this year and thought I’d give them a try. Boy am I hooked. The interface is elegant once the publication fully loads. It’s fast and after setting up my account I have fast seamless purchases via safari and immediately I am back in the app. I barely even notice the change. On wifi the experience is far superior to any of the several ereaders I have tried. I am by no means a layman either. I develop software.

Andre

Agreed! Zinio is great, I only want a few additional title such as Fast Company, Entrepreneur and Inc!

Marc

I love the Zinio app; Zinio is the first app that I’ve seen that lets me get digital copies of my favourite magazines on my iPhone. Zinio has the potential to stay on top of the e-magazine delivery to Apple mobiles and internet browsers, but there’s also the potential of a new startup to take that position from them. Reading these comments gives me faith that they are striving to keep their position.

I’ve done my fair share of beta testing, so I’m an understanding user. One thing I’ve learned, is to never complain about new software without constructive criticism and impatience. Thank Zinio for being the first (that I’m aware of). I want to see more magazines go paperless.

Tablazines

Pretty misleading title to decide the future of magazine apps based on Zinio’s rather sparse pdf treatment of magazines.

Roger

I have to step up and defend Zinio. While the Zinio app does not exploit every benefit of the iPad platform, it does what it promises, and does it well.
I subscribe to several magazines via Zinio, and all of them load quickly, the pages turn quickly, the ability to zoom beats the heck out of holding a paper magazine up to my face, and the quality of the images is fantastic – being backlit they are far more vibrant than in print.
Granted, there is a lot that a magazine company could do to take advantage of the iPad, but Zinio gives me access to current magazines, with a better reading experience than I would have with the paper version, and my coffee table, office, bedroom and bathroom aren’t littered with the old copies. And my whole library travels with me.
If you would have bought a paper version of the magazine, subscribing with Zinio is a hands-down winner.

Dave

As I am in the market for the iPad in the next couple of months, I’ve recently downloaded the Zinio beta 4 release for Windows and the iPhone app to gauge the user experience. On the whole I am happy with the app that Zinio have produced, but my concerns as to usabiliy lie with their apparently US-centric model.

I’m UK based and would love to subscribe to National Geographic, Scientific American and a few others. The problem is I can’t. The only SciAm available in the UK is the Chinese language version and NatGeo/NatGeo Traveller are only available as single issue purchases.

I’ve tried mailing their customer support team with no answer and so have no idea as to why this may be and so find myself in the position where I want to use Zinio but cannot commit to what currently appears to be a primarily US-focused product.

Sam

I am also keen to find out if/when the National Geographic Interactive will be available via Zinio for UK customers. I was really looking forward to using it before I bought the iPad and very disappointed to discover that it isn’t available to me. Any news from Zinio about this?

Sam

I got this reply from Zinio: “The National Geographic is currently only available to residents of the US and Canada. I apologize for any inconvenience. This is at the request of the publisher. If you were living at your US address ;-) you could purchase this title.”

Someone at the National Geographic store in London suggested I ring NG subscriptions on 0845 045 0355. If we all ring, perhaps we’ll get more luck.

Heather

I’ve been using Zinio since I got my iPad a month ago and I’m very pleased with it. Yes, it takes longer to download a magazine than a eBook – but there are a LOT more graphics in the magazine than a text book! It’s not horrible, and I can usually have a magazine in less than 1-2 minutes. Less time than it would take to go to the store!

I don’t have any trouble turning pages – it does not take one second by any means.

I love having new issues come automatically to my iPad and the prices on the digital issues are usually better than paper issues. I also appreciate being able to order international magazines at amazing prices – I’m a French teacher and I love to read current issues and to share them with my students. Print subscriptions are prohibitively expensive, but digital editions are quite affordable.

one problem I’m having is deleting issues from my iPad. I’m following the help instructions to single tap and hold, but I never get the x to delete issues.

Jason Alan Graves

Just read your article titled, “Zinio’s iPad Magazines Suggest Disappointing Future” and I could not disagree more. Granted, there are some minor performance issues with the Zinio app on the iPad, but truly, they are minor.

As far as magazines, it’s true that the folks at Zinio seem to have deliberately chosen not to go the way certain publishers have chosen in their stand alone applications by adding extraneous and annoying animated features and so forth. All the things that have made “web” magazines annoying.

No, they at Zinio have given us that long lost intimate magazine reading experience. They have replicated everything that is great about reading a magazine.

As far as the URL’s which are outlined in blue; this is perhaps one of the best parts of the application, for tapping on those URL’s takes the reader to a world of additional content, the vast majority of which is done in an elegant and sophisticated way.

Far from suggesting a disappointing future, the folks at Zinio clearly are poised for astronomical growth along with the publishers who have taken that leap of faith and chosen Zinio’s distribution infrastructure, National Geographic, among others as an example. And as of today, those publishers who are now distributing with Zinio are clearly laughing all the way to the bank considering their subscription rate is orders of magnitude greater than the publishers peddling their stand alone apps; at least according to the latest data I have seen.

Those publishers who have chosen to go it alone, pushing out their own magazine applications, they have slaughtered the beautiful magazine reading experience by introducing so many extraneous features. I personally would not subscribe to any of these; I want a magazine, nothing more and nothing less. With Zinio, they deliver with perfection.

Bob

Juan, I noticed the opposite issue. I subscribed to Windsurfing magazine and while it showed up on my iPhone it wouldn’t show up on my iPad. A couple weeks later I started getting the iPad version too. So I’m guessing that there is a slight difference between the versions or some licensing issues.

All in all I’m pretty impressed with the latest release. I haven’t had any crashes and have about 6 subscriptions (only magazines that are cheaper than in paper.

There are some magazines that I won’t change over to electronic, like The New Yorker, it’s one of my ‘bathroom reads’ if you get my drift and I like it that way.

Juan

Just to follow up, I did just test Zinio on my iPhone 3G (not GS). After logging in to my account, I noticed my The Economist purchase was not available in the list of magazines. Clicking upon the “missing some titles” button brought up a note that not all content had versions yet for the iPhone, apparently The Economist is not available yet.

I did read through one of the sample magazines – the PC magazine and it seemed reasonable for the form factor. Once downloaded, it was able to smoothly and quickly navigate through the pages. Obviously, some zooming and panning is needed to read the pages in their original format given the limited screen, but it seemed ok for the way I would use it on an iPhone. There was also a button for text mode that was much easier to read on an iPhone that would scroll through all the text for the article even multiple pages, but the navigation between articles was a little unwieldy – instead of swiping left or right to go between pages, you either need to get out of text mode, change pages and go back into text mode again or go to the next page via table of contents to switch articles. Still, not that bad. A cool feature (at least with the sample PC Mag article) – when in text mode at the top is an envelope icon that you can click to send the text of an article via e-mail that also includes a link. (although, I guess it begs the question why I would pay $6.99 – more than the newsstand price of a paper copy – to download a magazine I can read online for free…)

Look forward to trying it out with The Economist when they have it ready for the iPhone. Like the idea of being able to carry several hundred pages (or thousands) of magazines and books in my pocket. Especially if it is done well.

Am curious of other peoples’ experiences with other magazines? Is The Economist a fluke or have the other mags improved as well?

Juan

I purchased my first magazine (The Economist) with Zinio today for use with my iPad and I have to say that I am impressed.

I suspect that the Zinio software performance and magazine content has improved since originally reviewed or maybe my expectations are simpler. The iPad is my first experience with Zino, so I can’t say whether it’s a poor experience on Macs and PCs.

Page turning was fast. I was easily able to flip thru several pages in a second. At least with this magazine, it didn’t look like a PDF scan. In portrait mode on my desk, it almost looks like an actual page from the magazine itself is on my desk. Text was crisp and clear, flawless even at highest magnification. Images seemed to be zoomable to about 2-3x an of reasonable quality. Hyperlinks between pages worked fine.

While I was able to crash Zinio with one of the free magazines, in quickly flipping thru pages and links with this The Economist issue, the app did not crash.

Agreed with the others that the Safari magazine purchase is not ideal (would prefer an App store type experience), it was reasonable given this method. I appreciated that at completion of the purchase, it brought me back into the app to the exact spot I had been to begin reading the magazine. I thought that was a nice piece of integration.

I travel a lot internationally and it’s nice to be able to carry a large number of books and magazines in a little iPad device. Also, some magazines I want to read may not be available in the country I am traveling or the original language version (usually English) may take longer to arrive and be much more expensive. And I can see this being convenient when in a conversation about a specific subject to not only be able to say “by the way The Economist had a great article about that in June of last year” but to also be able to show it on the spot. Or I may want to refresh my memory of the article. And being able to do that on an iPhone too in a pinch, is cool. (Have not tried on iPhone yet)

While Olly and some of the commenters seem to have some valid issues, I did not have any with the current version of the app and this magazine. Kudos to you Zinio!

One feature I would like to see is the ability to ‘lend’ the magazine to a friend, whether they have an iPad or iPhone, etc.. One disadvantage compared to the physical magazine is that I can’t just ‘lend’ it to someone else and I really don’t want to have to lend my iPad or iPhone to someone when I’m expecting an e-mail or call, etc..

Ron

I’ve finally had a chance to try it on the iPad, and it works pretty good!

It’s definitely much better experience than the Mac/PC, and the quality seems better with the beautiful iPad screen.

Unfortunately, it’s still buggy though… it sometimes crashes turning pages…

I’m also disappointed that the magazine selection seems smaller… not sure why…

I’m hoping they will keep it updated on the iPad.

Toolio

Personally, I love the zinio iPad app. Yes it can be improved and no doubt will be. But for me it is a better zinio experience than on my desktop.

Renato

Hi,

My experience with Zinio and the National Geo magazine so far has been OK. I got the free edition that came with Zinio.

Pages really do not take anytime to download. Im am swiping and the pages just appear very smoothly…

Only one problem… Why is the subscription to National Geo not available to UK customers???

Jeanniey Mullen

Hi everyone,

Jeanniey, the CMO again. thanks for this great conversation! We really appreciate all of the feedback – as it is helping us improve.

Just wanted to let everyone know a few things you might not be aware of if you’re not on our corporate marketing list:
1) Zinio will go live with a localized interface in many different countries tomorrow, when the iPads go on sale internationally. We are pretty excited.
2) Yesterday, Zinio announced that we are building branded apps (mini zinio’s) for our publishers-but keeping them hooked into the Zinio UNITY ™ platform. This means you can download a XYZ publisher app from iTunes and it will give you access to any of thier magazines you had previously bought direct from Zinio, or, when you buy from the publisher website you will be able to read on the xyz app (or in Zinio).
We also are now offering publishers the ability to sell a print and digital bundle at once on Zinio.
3) We are hard at work adding lots of feature enhancements to the iPad app- including bookmarking, socal sharing, etc. Lots of the things you are asking for.
4) Many of our publishers are hard at work enhancing the digital version of their magazines with audio, video, quizzes etc. So stay on the lookout for the innovators.

Thanks all!

Mark Smith

Jeanniey, so this is iPhone as well right?? Indeed, still waiting for a answer (and yep I’ve tried Zinio support 3 times):

MARK SMITH
SUNDAY, APRIL 25 2010
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.

Zachary Lance

Hello Mark,

Thanks for your comment. Indeed, what Jeanniey mentioned also applies to the iPhone. You’ll soon see the app in the Switzerland App Store!

It appears that your previous inquiries to customer support were responded to with information that the release date was unknown at the time, and that you would be notified at the time of release. I’ll be sure to personally contact you after the official release tomorrow to confirm accessibility and answer any questions that you may have.

Kind Regards,

Zachary Lance – Zinio Customer Support

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