Washington Apple Pi

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A Short Review of Zinio Reader

© 2004 Mike Mellor

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

When I registered my new G4 iBook last week I received a nice E-mail from Apple with a nice gift—one free year of Macworld magazine, in either traditional or electronic format published by Zinio (www.zinio.com). Since I just renewed my print subscription I decided to try the electronic version, and here is my first impression of it.

Zinio delivery manager

The Zinio Delivery Manager dialog is not particularly inspiring.

Zinio Reader (Panther version, 1.4.3) is a free 6.4 megabyte download that allows you to download and read the electronic magazines. Once you download a magazine and open it in the reader it behaves similarly to a paper magazine. The display shows two facing pages (or just the cover when you first open a new magazine). This results in text that is a little too small for me to read (on a 12" iBook at least) but the default mouse click action is to zoom in on an area of interest. The amount of zoom can be adjusted from zooming in from two pages wide to one page wide, to as large a zoom as from the two-page width to one third of a page in width. Clicking along the side of a page causes the page to flip, with or without animation. Like Adobe Acrobat Reader, moving around in a zoomed in page is as simple as clicking and dragging the page. In addition to the smart mouse actions, there are also navigation buttons along the bottom of the reader. The reader also can be navigated by keyboard shortcuts. In all, it is an easy to use program that works well on my 800 MHz iBook with 256M RAM.

fZinio version of cover art

The cover art for an electronic magazine isn’t particularly inspiring. What works in print doesn’t necessarily work electronically.

One of the things that I don’t like about the Zinio system is its approach to Digital Rights Management (DRM). Zinio requires you to download a magazine on each machine that you want to use to read it. You cannot copy it over a LAN or burn it to a CD to read it on other machines (although you can download it up to three times). At 15+MB per magazine that takes quite a while on a dial-up connection. I would be much happier with the iTunes DRM method where one download can be shared across three computers. Another nit to pick is the cost—I would like to see a discounted subscription rate for those of us who already subscribe to the printed magazine. I think $5 or so per year to be able to download an electronic version of what I already am paying for would be great. But both of these are small issues in an overall good package.

fZinio interface

The Zinio Reader interface has icons at the top for zooming in, printing, searching, flipping pages, etc. At the bottom is a tool for rapidly “flipping” through electronic documents.

Magazine selection is fairly decent, with about 30 or so different titles being offered, including Macworld and the new, digital-only, Mac Developer Journal. Also, the Zinio Web site has numerous sample issues of these magazines that you can download. The Mac Developer Journal bears special mention. It is a new, electronic-only magazine that has embedded video and other “Rich Media” features. You can either purchase a subscription to a magazine or buy single issues.

The bottom line is that I really like the Zinio reader as a complement to the printed magazine. It is convenient to use and has an intuitive interface. The only drawbacks that I see are the DRM, and the cost for subscribing to both versions of a magazine. Now, if they would only start offering archives in the Zinio format I could get rid of the boxes of old magazines that I have stacked in my basement!