The iPad: A Great Magazine Reader

by Bakari Chavanu Jun 16, 2010

If I had to say which is my number one reason for liking and using the iPad, I would give two thumbs up for magazine and web-based article reading. I’ve written about article and PDF reader apps, and now I want to point out some fairly good magazine apps for the iPad. There’s simply no better device on the market that I know of for full-color, quality display of digital magazines and newspapers.

I have stacks of paper magazines in my office that are very hard for me dispose of , because I sometimes manage to flip back through them for interesting topics and ideas. But in some ways I feel imprisoned by my piles of old publications. I often think about how much space they take up in my closet and on book shelves.

Well, it looks as if the iPad may be the very tool to set me free. I currently subscribe to Macworld, e-published on Zinio, and The Nation magazine, produced on a PixelMags app.  Each app delivers high quality resolution, though not as slick as the paper edition.

Like other standard e-readers such as Apple‘s iBook and‘s Kindle app, the Zinio and Pixelmags apps are very easy to navigate—you tap the sides of the screen to turn pages, and you can position the iPad for both single page reading in portrait mode, and two-page spread viewing in landscape mode. You can also scroll thumbnails of pages, which is pretty convenient.

As a reader with increasingly poor eyesight, I particularly like how I can pinch or tap to enlarge the size of pages for better reading. I also actually think that pages are best read in the portrait position of the iPad. Viewing two-page spreads in landscape mode makes the pages a little too small for adequate reading, but it’s okay for browsing the content.

Beyond the ease of navigation and reliability of pages, both apps offer a few unique features. The Zinio app allows you to browse and shop for other publications within the application itself.  It does not, but should, feature a tool for bookmarking individual pages. Though it will remember the last page you visited before closing a magazine. It provides two methods for accessing thumbnails views, and another menu button for pulling up the table of contents without having to tap back to the front of the magazine.

It also features Text mode, similar to the new Reader feature in Safari 5, that strips away graphic detail and delivers up only the text of the article. In the Text view you can actually select and copy text, as well as email entire pages. Not even Apple or Amazon allow for copying and pasting of text in their e-readers.

You can activate links with Zinio publications, which opens web pages within the app’s browser. This is really great for e-pubs like Macworld which include links within nearly all its articles. (Incidently, there’s so much overlap between the online, paper, and e-pub versions of Macworld that you wonder what is the advantage of subscribing to the magazine when you can get lots of free content online.)

All your Zinio magazines are kept in your library, on both on your iPad as well as your online account. Your subscriptions can also be downloaded to your Mac, iPhone and iPod touch.

Unlike Zinio, which handles and distributes several publications, PixelMags are single publication apps. I have downloaded the The Nation and iCreate (iTunes Store links) magazines. There are a couple of dozen more Pixelmags app for both the iPad and the iPhone. You can purchase single issues or subcriptions of a publication via the apps themselves. The Nation app is a free download, with a free issue. The iCreate app cost $1.99 with a free first issue.

iCreate I believe is a London-based publication that cost about $16 per issue here in the States. The iPad/iPhone version is only $4.99 per issue.  iCreate is an extremely well done publication, providing basic and advance tutorials and reviews for all of Apple’s iLife and professional software, and hardware. I have no need to subscribe to the magazine, but I certainly might purchase a few issues of the more affordable iPad version.

Each PixelMags app allows you to share individual issues for up to four days with someone who already has a PixelMags account. (Email me if you’re interested in exchanging issues.) It also allows for bookmarking entire pages, which I think should be a standard for all e-publication apps.

With each e-pub app you can also sync your subscriptions between your other mobile devices and your Mac.

One little unique feature that PixelMags includes is the aiblity to access your iTunes library from within the app. It also includes a drop-down table of contents that can be accessed from the app’s menu bar. Unlike with Zinio, you can’t email pages, copy or paste, or activate URLs from within the apps. The navigation of pages is also not as fast and smooth as with Zinio app.

The magazine sharing of PixelMags publications is a big plus, but for now the Zinio app provides better features for its publications.

Neither of these apps and publications offer much in the way of mutimedia content or interactivity. And except for the price of iCreate, the e-reader versions cost just as much as for the single newsstand issues and subscriptions for the publicatons. I don’t think the prices shoud be lower for the e-pub versions, but I do think they should include some multimedia content.

Wired Magazine
For the purposes of writing this article, I did download an issue of the Wired magazine app, which is not a Zinio or or PixelMags publication. I rarely purchase the paper copy of this publication because it’s too full of ads, with articles nearly buried among them.

However, this iPad version of Wired is far superior to the Zinio and Pixelmags e-publications. The navigation is super fast and the resolution quality is far better. Wired includes lots of  multimedia content, including embedded videos, songs, 3D imaging, and the like. This app is about style. There’s no annotation features (though there really should be), but it does set the bar for other creative e-publications to reach. 

Overall, the fact that e-publications are so much more eco-friendly than paper issues is something I’m willing to pay for. When you visit local magazine racks at say Borders or Barnes & Nobel, you should cringe when you think about the thousands of unsold issues of magazines boxed up each week and sent back for recycling. That’s a lot of waste.

In this regard, I think the iPad and similar e-reader devices are a viable solution for the newspaper and magazine industry.


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