One great things about tablets is that they can simulate other handheld media: books, newspapers, and magazines for instance. And while every newspaper under the sun has an app for the leading tablets, and you can read books via the Kindle, Google Books, or iBooks app, I never really came across a magazine app that made reading magazines a tablet experience – that is, until Zinio.
Sure, you can view PDFs on your tablet, but they don’t harness the power of the interactive device you’re using. Zinio, on the other hand, harnesses it well.
Zinio allows you to browse, subscribe to, and view tons of magazines. I discovered it while subscribing to .net magazine and got very excited at the prospect. I purchased one issue to test it out, downloaded the app, and really enjoyed the experience. Plus, Zinio gave me another $10 for subscriptions, which all users apparently get after their first purchase. Bonus!
Zinio Home Screen
Today’s review is going to be strictly about the app: design, UX, UI, and other features. I’m saving my thoughts on how apps like this stack up against an actual magazine for a different article. Keep an eye out! But for right now, let’s get started.
Note: Zinio also works on phones, but my focus will be on tablet use.
I know Android apps get a bad rap for not looking that great, but I think Zinio is a really beautifully designed app. It’s very organized and intuitive, the typography is really nice, and it has just the right amount of textured background. It also works very well in both portrait and landscape mode.
Home Screen in Landscape Mode
Zinio is designed to be an all-encompassing experience. That means you sign in with your username and password and you can do anything from the app. View your subscriptions, download new issues, and even add magazines. I think this was a really smart move on their part as I’m never required to leave the app once I have an account set up. If there’s something new I’d like to add, I can do it from within the app.
The app also isn’t gushing with functionality, which I think is another good move. It’s split into three major sections: view free content, view your subscriptions, and shop. This means the learning curve is relatively low, the user catches on quickly, and he or she is not overwhelmed. This goes for viewing magazines as well.
.net's Cover Screen
Browsing the magazine is as simple as swiping your finger left or right to move from page to page. Zinio also has pinch-to-zoom support so you can zero-in on a particular section of a page. You can also get a nice two-page layout if you rotate your tablet to view in landscape mode. Finally, some pages have a “Text” button, so if you’d like to just view the text (or email/share it), you can do that too.
As far as navigating the magazine goes, if you’re looking for a specific page or section you can tap outside of the current page to bring up some extra navigation options. The first one is the pages laid out across the bottom. You can quickly move through the pages at a glance to find the ones you’re looking for. If this doesn’t work for you, or you want to view more pages at a time, there is also a tiled page view, which you can access by pressing on the appropriate-looking icon in the top right.
Tiled Page Browsing
Finally, if you’re prefer a more table of contents-y list view, Zinio has you covered! Just press the other (also appropriate-looking) icon in the top right to see that.
Think anyone noticed this and the last screen are from two different magazines? (I did - Ed.)
All in all, this is a pretty solid app for reading magazines. My only gripe is that I wish more pages supported text, and that there was more Kindle-like functionality for bookmarking and highlighting select pages/passages.
As I mentioned earlier, Zinio makes it incredibly easy to subscribe to magazines.
The Purchase/Subscribe Area
The Subscription area is nicely organized into categories, including Features, New Arrivals, and Top Sellers. Choosing a magazine will take you to a purchase page where you can purchase a single issue, sign up to a subscription, or view back issues.
This magazine seems to combine tech and attractive women.
The entire purchasing experience, which allows PayPal and credit cards, is included right inside the app. There is no need to save credit card info or attach a PayPal account beforehand.
Zinio also has a section dedicated to free stuff, in case you’d like to try the app out a bit before subscribing to the idea of a digital magazine (see what I did there?). Pressing the “eye” icon in the top right of the home screen gives you the ability to browse articles that are made freely available by Zinio or the publisher.
Free Article Area
Unlike magazines you purchase, these articles are not saved to your tablet. They are downloaded to your device then for you to view, then removed.
Keep an eye out for emails from Zinio as well. They often offer nice deals and free magazines.
Zinio stands to change the way people read magazines. Is it there yet? I don’t think so – but it’s definitely not far off. It’s beautifully designed, stable, and has great functionality. It’s also got tons of magazines to choose from, across all kinds of categories. Some of the bigger ones are Esquire, Men’s Health, Maxim, People, Cosmo, O, Women’s Health, PC Magazine, and much more. Aside from a couple of “wish list items,” Zinio is a truly solid app.
Of course, I didn’t mention at all how I feel about the digital magazine in general. Keep an eye out for my op-ed piece for more on that!