I’m not sure how many people are interested in the topic of going paperless since it gets few hits on the stats page – but I’m enjoying exploring the idea. And I did get an email from Adam Kadleck suggesting I try out Zinio, an online magazine service. Since he works for the company he also provided me with a sample subscription to Saveur Magazine, a colorful periodical about cuisine.
A huge shortcoming of the Kindle is its lack of ability to show photographs and color graphics. I remember reading an early complaint about the Kindle from a Slashdot kid who whined the Kindle couldn’t handle comics and porn -reading material that Zinio can handle.
A magazine is not very magazine-like on the Kindle. Zinio sells magazines and has a custom software reader so magazine pages look exactly like they do in their paper form. It even fakes page turning with graphics and sound. Zinio is paperless but with more of the natural features of paper. Saveur Magazine would not work on the Kindle. Without the appetizing photos of the food it would lose much of its appeal.
The Zinio software reader works very well on my 19″ wide-screen LCD monitor showing two full page at a time. However, I need to zoom in to read the content. Zinio makes this a breeze, but I wonder if I had a 22″ monitor if I could read without zooming. The height of my 19″ monitor is about an inch less than the height of a standard magazine after you take into account the Zinio menu. The screen view on 22″ monitor could well be the same height as a paper magazine.
Right now Zinio has a decent selection of magazines, but far from the selection of a good bookstore. And like ebooks, the issue of the pricing of e-magazines is still questionable. Why pay the same subscription price for a paperless magazine when the publisher isn’t covering the overhead for paper, printing and postage? It’s not uncommon to see $5.99 and $6.99 mags at the bookstore – I would think going paperless and using Zinio they should sell for $1.99 at most. PC World is $19.97 a year on Zinio. I’ve gotten better offers than that in the mail. Science is $99.00 – and that seems way too much for electrons.
The photographs on Zinio look pretty good but nowhere near the quality of a slick paper print. Strangely enough the quality reminds me of the new paper used in Sky & Telescope, a big step down from their old paper. You can magnify Zinio photographs but they break up. It would be great if the Zinio photographs offered quality features over print magazines, like larger hi-rez popup views.
The feature I would want the most from Zinio is full text indexing. I have several years of Sky & Telescope on my shelves, but finding an article means lots of flipping pages. It would be great if I had a library of Zinio magazines that I could quickly query for instant data.
There is an online company Press Display that offers reading newspapers online in the same way Zinio works for magazines, but their reader is browser based. Even though many of these newspapers offer free online editions, the ability to read a newspaper that looks like the printed edition does have value, maybe even value worth paying. The New York Times offers the Times Reader for $14.95 a month. It’s not a system for seeing the paper as printed, but a online viewer to making newspaper reading better than reading through a web browser, so its yet another alternative to paper.
The problem with these solutions is being tied to your monitor for reading. Now I don’t mind reading off a monitor – screen resolution is now better than newsprint and fonts can be enlarged to beat tiny magazine typefaces. What I’d like is to read in my La-Z-Boy, but to do that will require waiting for an ebook reader with a hi-rez color screen the size of a standard magazine page. I expect such a Star Trek like tablet in the next few years.
I don’t think it will be long before we’ll stop murdering millions of trees just to let people read a couple headlines and do the daily crossword. Going paperless means changing habits but I think there will be technology to help us to keep our old addictive reading behaviors while adding new features that help us process knowledge.