I love magazines. Maybe it's a generational thing, maybe it's just a preference, maybe everyone does, I don't know. But I know that I love the darned things.
I used to subscribe to at least a dozen monthly magazines and a few weeklies back in the day (The Industry Standard was a favorite). But when combined with a couple of daily newspapers, some hobby publications and newsletters it quickly turned into an insane amount of paper.
When the iPad arrived in 2010, I imagined it as the ultimate printed magazine replacement. Finally my problem would be solved. I could replace all my dead tree magazine subscriptions with digital ones that I could easily tote on my trusty iPad.
Unfortunately, this wasn't a reality.
Many magazines I enjoyed (even mainstream tech magazines like Wired) weren't initially available as digital editions. And later when they were, they charged $4 per issue -- with no price break for print subscribers. Everything changed in August 2010 when Time Inc. convinced Apple to move beyond its outmoded app-centric pay-per-issue model and allow publishers to give free access to digital editions to existing magazine subscribers.
While a tectonic shift to be sure, it didn't solve the paper problem.
Many digital editions were only available to print subscribers. Publishers, as it turned out, were mortified of seeing their print subscriptions erode and their print advertisers with it. Advertisers weren't convinced that digital editions were going to be as effective a platform as the tried-and-true printed magazine format and were clinging to the old model like bark on a tree.
Now that the iPad's here to stay, advertisers seem to be less fearful of going digital, but they've yet to totally embrace the format. The other problem is the publishers, who are equally fearful of the digital revolution.
I get most of my magazines on the iPad now, but there have been a couple of notable exceptions (like Rolling Stone and Macworld magazine) that haven't published digital editions on the Newsstand section of the iTunes Store (which arrived in iOS 5.) Granted, Rolling Stone is available online but only to print subscribers. The Macworld Daily Reader iOS app (free, App Store) is a hybrid of the print magazine and website with a selection of premium content available for $20 per year for print subscribers.
Macworld's editorial director Jason Snell tells me that Macworld magazine will make its debut on Newsstand in "a couple more weeks." Snell adds that "print subscribers will get a very generous discount to add digital but it won't be given away for free."
Enter Zinio, billing itself as the "world's largest newsstand," which bridges the gap perfectly between magazine and iPad. Zinio brings magazines not previously available in digital format simply and beautifully to the iPad. Zinio's available as a universal iOS app (free, App Store) which works on the iPad and iPhone, and it's also available on Android and Mac and PC via a web browser. Magazine prices are based on either individual purchases or subscription purchases. Rolling Stone, for example, costs $4.99 for a single issue and $19.99 for 26 issues (84% off the cover price).
I love Zinio simply for the fact that it allows me to read Rolling Stone on my iPad. That alone is worth the price of admission for me. RS seems to be one of the few remaining magazine holdouts, which is being forcibly dragged into 21st century kicking and screaming.
But it's not just Rolling Stone and Macworld magazine, Zinio boasts an impressive catalog of over 5,000 titles with 2,500 that are exclusive to the platform. Here's a partial list of U.S. magazine titles that are exclusive to Zinio and not available on the Apple Newsstand:
Digital Photo Pro
Ladies Home Journal
Living The Country Life
Soap Oprea Digest
Zinio's a front-page app on my iPad, earning a spot right next to Newsstand, iBooks and Kindle. It's a must-have iOS app for any self-respecting magazine lover.
Update: AllThingsD reports that a consortium of publishers (including Hearst, Meredith, Time Inc., News Corporation and Conde Nast.) have formed a joint venture called Next Issue, which AllThingsD refers to as the "Netflix of Magazines." Next Issues allows you to read any of the participating magazine titles for $10 per month (or $15 per month for weeklies like The New Yorker). Unfortunately the app only work on Android tablets running Honeycomb. An iOS version is planned for "this summer."