Monday, March 7, 2016

Reading on the iPad Part 11: Zinio, My New Favorite

I can't believe that the most recent update to this series was nearly two and a half years ago!
I should have written this installment months ago, but blogging gets too small a pie-slice of my life.

In this installment I review Zinio. I like Zinio very much. It is the iPad magazine reading app that I have wanted since day 1. Here is why:

My judgment criteria:

To review, in part 2 I defined my personal criteria that defined as a "good" reader:

  • Did the reader offer a good, "turn all the pages" interface when I wanted it?
  • Did the publication offer a good table of contents summary and easy fetch when I wanted it?
  • Was the content in front of me when I wanted to read it or did I have to wait?
  • Was the interface familiar, sensible, and obvious?

In the course of several years of experience I found additional criteria:

  • Does the reader return to the page I left off when I resume after doing something else?
  • Does the reader avoid distracting additional features?
  • Does the reader allow easy setting/clearing/visiting of bookmarks?
  • Is navigation easy within an issue?
  • Is navigation easy between issues?
  • Does the reader app stay up and running without crashing?

How Zinio found me:

I had a paper subscription to Out magazine, but I had a problem: The scented cologne ads freaked out my nose and some issues were unreadable because of the stench! Their customer service department graciously offered to extend my subscription and switch it to digital through their partner Zinio.

I'd never head of Zinio, and it took me a while to schedule time to try out the app. But when I finally took the time with a trial issue I found it quite adequate.

Meanwhile I encountered a readability problem with Forbes on the Maz app: In January 2014 Forbes re-designed the iPad layout with a much bigger font. In the paper edition and the old format on Maz, I could quickly flip the pages, skim to content and zoom in on details I wanted to read. In the new Format, a 2 page article became 5 pages. I could no longer skim effectively. Furthermore, I kept hitting the wrong part of the screen and activating the "Select Text to Share" feature.

What I formerly viewed as the fastest and most robust reader that I liked best, had turned into the most annoying experience of all of the readers. I exchanged some emails with the CEO of Maz, but he said that his hands were tied -- that Forbes insisted on the new design.

I exchanged email with Lewis D'Vorkin, Chief Product Officer of Forbes, who said he would look into my issues. Nobody ever followed up. I sent a couple of follow-ups myself but got no reply. It got to the point where I got too angry even to open the Forbes Maz interface. I went back to paper.

It turned out that there was a Forbes subscription available through Zinio. It gave me exactly the experience I wanted in the first place. It kept what was good about the paper edition design without distractions from additional features or crashes. I love it!

How does Zino do by my judgment criteria?

Zinio uses the paper layout of the magazine rather than a "special for iPad design".

  • Yes, it offers a "turn all the pages" interface.
  • Yes, it has a good table of contents summary and easy fetch. Specifically, it offers two table of contents interfaces: Tap on the article entry in the magazine's contents pages, or tap on the icon at the top that looks like an outline.
  • Yes, the content is in front of me when I want to read it. I do not have to wait. Indeed I can turn the pages in Zinio even on my ancient iPad FASTER than I can turn the pages of a paper magazine.
  • Yes, the interface is familiar, sensible and obvious. The pinch and draw and the double tap magnify interface is there. Rotating between landscape and portrait mode works just fine. Switching amongst issues and publications is simple and direct.
  • Yes, the reader returns to the page I left off with 100% reliability. Something that qmags STILL does not do.
  • Yes, the reader avoids distracting additional features.
  • Yes, the reader allows easy setting/clearing and visiting of bookmarks. Indeed it gets right what Wired can't seem to get right: Going to bookmarks in a different issue than the one I am currently reading. In Wired there is a bug where I tap on a book mark in an issue I'm not currently reading and get an error message. In Zinio it opens the other issue and takes me where I want to go.
  • Yes, navigation within the magazine is easy. Flipping pages, the thumbnail view,  the page grid view, the table of contents view or the bookmarks page.
  • Yes, navigation between issues makes sense.  The bookmark interface handles this well too.
  • Yes, the app stays up without crashing.
All in all, I find using Zinio a joy! That is where I read Forbes, Out, and The Advocate. It is where I would like to read IEEE Spectrum, IEEE Computer and CACM instead of the current apps on offer.

I plan to drop Jason Pontin of MIT Technology Review a note and let him know that there is a digital custodian available for his print publication that does everything we hoped TR's foray into the app world would have done if it could have gotten debugged and put into production at reasonable cost.

I am considering switching my Fast Company subscription over to Zinio. I have to take a little time and compare the two apps head to head.

There may come a day when all the fancy video add-ons and half-working links out to the gets to be too annoying and I switch that subscription over to Zinio.

A friend with the big-screen iPad let me install Zinio to play with. The big-screen iPad basically reproduces the full page of a paper magazine with 100% fidelity both in picture quality and size.

I tried out Zinio on the Microsoft Surface at the Microsoft store, and it seemed to work just fine. Sadly, back at the Apple Store, there was NO demo model that could let me play with Zinio there, so I have no experience with Zinio on the faster, newer iPads that have superseded mine.


Zinio is it's own subscription world. You have to switch from subscribing through the original publisher to subscribing through Zinio. However the Zinio folks do try to make this easy.

The Zinio Shop interface is a bit pushy, but wow they have a lot of publications on offer!

I did have a little trouble finding my 2015 issues when the year turned over to 2015, but eventually figured out I needed to click on year to see a list of years to pick from, and go back.


People who know me know that I'm the sort who finds 99 wrong things before I find one right thing. I am extremely difficult to please. Zinio pleases me very much.

Now that I have it, this is the reader app I have been looking for from the beginning.

It gets right what the others get wrong.

It has a huge catalog of publications available.

I recommend it for readers and publishers alike.

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