Rethinking My Kindle Magazine Subscriptions–And Electronic Magazines in General

Years ago I cancelled all my magazine subscriptions to go paperless.  I was finding plenty to read on the Internet for free, and I was experimenting with services like Zinio, which offers electronic magazines.  Then I got a Kindle and iPad and subscribed to Kindle magazines at Amazon.  I liked I could subscribe by the month, and quit any time.  But like paper editions of magazines, I often didn’t keep up, and unread back issues piled up.  So I cancelled my Kindle subscription to The Rolling Stone.  I thought I’d have all my back issues to read when I got some free time, but once you cancel, you can’t download the issues, even for the ones I’ve “bought.”  If you had previously downloaded an issue it stayed on my iPad.  Unfortunately, I discovered there were many I never downloaded, even though their cover image was in my library listing.

See, I was thinking all those back issues were mine to read whenever I wanted, even if I wanted to wait years.  But that wasn’t the case.  I’m not bitching about Amazon’s licensing restrictions, I’m just reporting how things work.  It turns out that when I re-subscribed I could go back and download those previously subscribed issues.  In other words, you can get past back issues if your currently subscribing and paid for them previously, but they aren’t accessible when you aren’t paying the current monthly fee.

Reading on the iPad wasn’t bad, but I had an iPad 2, the one before the Retina Display, and reading small print was a bitch.  Using a tablet for both bookshelf and reader has it’s drawbacks.  When I upgraded to iOS 7 and v. 4 of the Kindle Reader, it zapped my collection of old magazines, telling me I needed to download them again.  I had just cancelled my Kindle subscription of The Rolling Stone, because I had started getting the paper copy again, and thus I couldn’t re-download my old issues.

Okay, I thought, the reason I subscribed to the paper copy of The Rolling Stone was to get access to the complete archive online.  Well, that didn’t work out either.  The online viewer for The Rolling Stone has one of the worst screen readers I’ve ever used.  It magnifies better than the iPad, but moving around the page and between pages is just flat out horrible.  I can’t believe many people would take the time to read old copies of RS online.

[Update 10-18-13 - the RS online reader looks great on my 24" iMac at work.  For some reason the reader controls and the bottom of the page are removed from my Windows 7/Chrome browsing.  I also tested it on Ubuntu 13.10, with Firefox on a 1280x1024 screen.  It worked better than Windows 7/Chrome but not as nearly as good as Mac/Safari.  Unfortunately, I don't have a Mac at home.  I need to test Windows 7/IE and iPad 2 when I get home.  Maybe there's hope.]

What’s funny is the reader that comes with the complete archive on DVD is much better, but still clunky.  They’ve had that reader for years.  The current online reader won’t even show the bottom of the page on my 23” 1920×1080 screen.  It’s a huge step backward.

You know what? It turns out the old fashion paper magazine is the real winner here.  Damn, technology goes down in flames.

Now it is possible to create an elegant screen reader that shows old magazines, just look this December, 1959 issue of Galaxy Magazine at Archive.org.  If the folks at The Rolling Stone used this program to show it’s back issues I’d be in periodical heaven.

galaxy-mag

[Click to enlarge]

Now I’d love to have a complete back run of Galaxy Magazine in this format.  It would be better than owning all those shelves of moldy pulp paper copies.  And it would be great to have them on a modern tablet with 2560 x 1600 pixels screen.  The Archive.org reader works very well on my iPad, making it the most comfortable way to read this classic SF mag.

The ideal way to read magazines would be to have a large, very high resolution tablet, with the complete archive of a magazine online, and an excellent viewer app.  That way the environment benefits, and we wouldn’t be bothered by shelves and shelves of old magazines to maintain.

Right now I’m very disappointed with the electronic versions of The Rolling Stone, either tablet version or online version.  Reading the paper version is the easiest technology.  That’s a shame.  I was so looking forward to doing some serious reading of past years of The Rolling Stone.  Now that I start my retirement years next Wednesday I’ve got some real reading time.

JWH – 10/17/13

4 Responses

  1. “Now that I start my retirement years next Wednesday I’ve got some real reading time.”

    Yeah, that’s what you think now. :)

    OK, you will have more time available, Jim, but it probably won’t feel like it. At least, it doesn’t for me. I found it easier to keep up with everything before I retired.

    Anyway, good luck with your retirement! At least you don’t have to start it with America shut down and in default, huh?

  2. Books, magazines and newspapers are best read on eink devices. I bought a Kindle Fire HD and hate it for serious reading. Hitting twitter or browsing the web is ok, but it can’t compete with a true eink reader. I switched back to my old DX.

    TOS are a btich. I still buy CDs and convert them myself. I can’t bring myself to buy physical books anymore, I have a mountain of them already. Everything digital is yours until you stop paying or you do anything the corporation doesn’t like, then they cut you off. Most have zero or seriously attenuated customer service departments, so there is no appeal. I liken being subject to a TOS to being a citizen in an old soviet block country. Corporate Communism, the worst of both worlds. Before so many things went digital TOS didn’t mean much, the item was in your hands, but now we’ve given them control in exchange for convenience.

  3. i have been tossing around the idea of buying my husband (the magazine collector) a kindle (or something similar) and somehow getting his hard copy archived collection of magazines onto it. they mostly consist of various food and car type magazines… I found this post helpful to know that you can access archives once the subscription is purchased. any other magazines that you know of dont allow archived downloadable access? also this tablet would be primarily used for magazine reading any specific suggestions for type? (within a reasonable price?) do you have any other hints or tips for a first timer with e-magazines? thanks!!!!

    • More recently I subscribed to Next Issue. It’s a Netflix for magazines kind of service, where I get access to 130 different magazines for $15 a month. It has many car and food mags. I’d recommend trying that before anything else. However, you have to have a tablet, and I highly recommend having a very hi-rez tablet, like an iPad 3 or later, or any of the recent Android tablets with 10″ screens and 2560 x 1600 pixel screen. It might work well on the Kindle HDX 8.9 too. These magazines often have small print, and hi-rez tablets make the small print sharp. Plus the photos and layout look better.

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