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May 15th 2014 1:43 pm

Are digital magazine subscriptions worth it?

I've been contemplating picking up digital subscriptions for various magazines to help encourage me to read more on the weekends. The thing is, looking at the prices of something I feel like they may be a little overpriced. When I browse through the store a lot of them (if I can actually find them) don't even look like they're designed for tablets, offering nothing more than PDF scans of the articles.

I'm likely going to purchase a few issues before a flight to see if it's worth it, but I'm just curious what others experiences have been. Part of my hesitation, at least on iOS, is them being tied into Newsstand and what happens if Newsstand goes away.

Speaking of Newsstand, discovering and find magazines is a bit of a mess.

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11 replies

Absolutely worth it. I currently subscribe to 4 magazines on Google Play Newsstand, 3 of which I actively read

I am actually finding that the digital versions are cheaper, especially if you can get them at a promotional rate, and more reliably delivered than my actual mail (*shakes fist at Canada Post*)

Wired - ($1.99 a month) Less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks, and provides more enjoyment

Car and Driver ($19.99/year, works out to $1.67 a month) See above

Esquire ($7.83 a year, less than $1 an issue) Same deal here

Yes, if Newsstand goes away I lose access to issues I had, but I rarely read issues once I am done with them. I also am not a collector and don't need to archive them on a shelf. My monthly and annual investment in the service is quite low actually.
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Have you found the experience to be any better? I'd hate to get into this and end up with just scans that are a pain to read because they're not high enough resolution.
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Well the magazines are basically 'scans' in the way that they are non-interactive. I haven't had problems with image or text quality, I believe they are very high resolution (remember there are a lot of high DPI android devices out now)

If anything, I find myself zooming a bunch on my Nexus 7 to make the small text a readable size.
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I've been using Zinio on Android (it's also on iOS) for about 18 months - I really like it a lot. The features enabled on each magazine are a function of the permissions of the publisher... so not all the features work on all the magazines... but it does work quite well, and the reproduction is gorgeous.

The only issue I have with it is their weird licensing... some "men's magazines" (yes, those kind) are available on the PC or OS X application, but not on the tablet app for instance... which I think is very strange. Some magazines (like Wired) are only available in the UK addition, but not the US... things like that.

So, I would recommend logging onto the Zinio website to see what they have available and if their library covers most of your needs.

Good luck

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I've used Zinio on OS X and iPad, and now mostly stick to using it on the iPad. I share TgD's opinion that the UI is on the sluggish side and can be quirky. Zinio on OS X is particularly annoying as it requires one to install Adobe Air - with all the negatives that go with that (poor performance and questionable security). However, the overall experience on either platform is way better than lugging dead trees around IMO.

I've experimented with Newsstand on the iPad (one technical and one photography sub), and it is a far better reading experience - particularly with photos. However, buying mags from Newsstand's Store is not a great experience when compared to shopping in Amazon's online store. Too bad.

The burden of DRM is worrying; but, for the most part, I'm not as troubled with it when it comes to magazines as I am with books. I'm not going to care if I can't read most of the magazines in a year or two, but I do worry about my ebook collection.
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Hadn't heard of Zinio but I'l check it out. Thanks!
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I have been drawn to Zinio in the past due to its ease of cross platform use, but I found the apps a little frustrating to use (ui lag and general slowness). Is this still the case Rob?
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I've subscribed to Bon Appetit and GQ before and both of their digital magazines were just scans of the physical magazine. There was some use of new interaction, swiping up and down to go through list articles, being the most memorable. This was 2-3 years ago so, the publisher (Conde Nast, I think) may have changed how they make their digital magazine.

My suggestion would be to make your own magazine with a folder in Instapaper or Pocket or your Read Later service of choice. Instead of reading an article that day send it to the folder and group similar articles together in a folder, if possible. Then, when the weekend comes you have a personally curated magazine about topics you are interested in.
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The digital scan thing is my biggest concern.

I was trying to do the read later thing, but it's hard to stay on top of certain publishers without getting caught in the firehose.
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Eh, by itself, I'm not sure if they're worth it. For me, if I'm on one of my devices (phone, tablet, or laptop), I'm most likely reading things through Pocket or Feedly.

That said, awhile back I snagged some deal for National Geographic were I get both the physical copy each month as well as access to their digital magazines via Newsstand. It's pretty nifty (but honestly, I hardly use the Newsstand version unless I'm traveling and want something to read before a flight takes off...)
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I've been reading digital mags for 6-8 months now and love it. Before you buy a digital subscription check your hard copy and see if a digital subscription is part of it. Some of my mags include a digital copy
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