I started this series about Going Paperless back in February and I’m slowly progressing towards my goal. My initial plan was to give up paper editions of newspapers and magazines, and in theory replace them with editions for the Kindle or on audio for my iPod, but Zinio electronic publishing was also recommended to me, and that turned out to be third path to going without paper. I haven’t renewed any of my paper magazines yet, and I’m still reading paper editions because many subs haven’t expired. As they expire I’ve got to find a paperless solution, thus giving me the incentive to subscribe to Zinio editions.
Even though I haven’t yet subscribed to a magazine through Zinio, I have gotten a number of free subs and issues. Today I discovered a major change in how Zinio delivers magazines that makes a vast improvement over their old solution. The previous method centered around a software reader installed on your machine, and magazines were saved on your hard drive, in the “library” as the program calls it. The new method is entirely web based, and what’s amazing, the online reader is better than the fat client! Web software programs are making quantum leaps in quality these days – it’s just mind blowing compared to just two years ago.
One thing I hated about the old reader was how it dealt with photographs. Photographs didn’t handle magnification like text. Text got bigger and stayed sharp, but magnified photos just got pixilated and jaggy. If you want to see a photo in a real magazine better you hold it up closer to your face and you can see more details. Now, with the online version, you can magnify the photo almost like you have Photoshop. Sure images will eventually deteriorate, but it’s good for three levels of blow-up. This is great for reading magazines like Popular Photography.
And there’s more! The online version is quicker and easier to scoot around within a page. Onscreen reading is greatly improved. The online program tries to be intuitive and guess what you want, so it has fewer controls. It takes a little getting used to, but I attuned to it fast. In full screen one click magnifies to 200%, another full click de-magnifies back to 100%. At 200% a hold-down click allows you to grab the page and slide it around. There’s a -/+ magnifier icon for 100% 200% 400% and 800% magnifications, so only mouse clicking is needed for quick reading and page turning, saving you trips to the top menu. On my 22″ LCD monitor I can read the magazine in full two-page view with no scrolling, but it’s easy and quick to magnified and read in large print.
Zinio isn’t perfect yet. You have to read at the computer, but net reading has gotten me used to that. What I’ve always wanted is a way to build a personal periodicals library that also had a search feature. Now this would work in two ways. I want full-text word search on all the magazines I own in my digital library. At the next level I’d want a full-text word search for all magazines published and be offered a chance to buy a magazine with an article I needed.
I like having an online library. Not only do I not have to save my paper copies, but I don’t even have to clutter up my computer with digital copies. Boy, I wish I had my years of back issues of Sky & Telescope and Astronomy Magazine stored away in the Zinio library – I’d gain enough shelf-space for a hundred books.
Since I started my going paperless quest I’ve learned some limitations about being perfectly paperless. Magazines like F&SF and other short story periodicals are something I’m going to read in a chair, and they are fine to get on the Kindle. I didn’t like Time on the Kindle. Magazines that I want to save like National Geographic or Sky & Telescope might justify their tree killing ways if I do keep them for years. I feel books are worth their ecological paper costs if we keep them for decades or centuries, and the same would be true for magazines we want to preserve. And since I want to sell a story to F&SF someday, I want to subscribe to the paper copy, just in case I ever get a story printed. I can read most of my favorite magazines online with no trouble. Something like Popular Science which has very busy layout, would be easier to read as a Zinio edition.
Zinio still doesn’t offer all the magazines I subscribe to, nor is the pricing on most journals what I think electronic editions should cost. If the publisher can skip printing, postage and distribution costs, then the electronic subscription should be significantly cheaper than buying paper, and in most cases it’s not. 12 issues of Popular Mechanics for $7.99 is A-OK. 12 issues of PC World for $19.97 means I read the free web version. And I’m not even offered magazines like Scientific American, Discover, Seed, Entertainment Weekly, Wired, Time, Newsweek, The Atlantic, Harper’s, and most of my regular reading.
Strangely enough, I can find many of my favorite magazines online offering their content for free – this makes me wonder if Zinio might be undersold by free web content. For companies like Zinio to succeed will require a new way of thinking about how magazines are priced.
I figure the NetFlix or Rhapsody Music model of pricing would be a better system. I pay $10 a month to each of those services and have unlimited access to their entire libraries. Rhapsody Music provides subscription music to nearly everything that’s for sale on CD for one monthly fee and I can listen all day long. NetFlix will send me one movie at a time from their vast library or let me watch a growing list of films on my computer any time for their monthly fee. Zinio, and other companies should offer a similar service for online magazines.
Some of my magazines have expired like The New Yorker, PC Magazine, PC World and Maximum PC, Time and Linux Journal. I don’t know if I should say this, but free web content has filled the need completely over these paper editions. I’m tempted to get The New Yorker on Audible.com, but I don’t miss the others.
My subscription is about to end for Entertainment Weekly, a zine my wife and I both read and enjoy. Susie is not on the path to paperless living, and I don’t want to renew. Much of EW’s content is online, but reading their website is like running a gauntlet of ads, and EW paginates the hell out of their stories forcing you to see page after pages of the same crappy ads. And their RSS feeds aren’t much help either. The paper copy is the easiest of their distribution methods to read. If it was available for a reasonable price, Entertainment Weekly would be perfect to get on Zinio. Because it’s not on Zinio and I want to stick to my paperless philosophy, it means I have to give up reading EW.