Years ago I gave up subscribing and buying paper magazines in hopes of going paperless. Oh, I’d break the rules and buy a magazine now and then. Then recently a guy a work started giving me his magazines after he read them with recommendations of articles to read. I started discovering that some articles found in magazines are vastly superior to most of the free articles I was finding on the web. I guess it’s a case of getting what you pay for. I also discovered for some subjects its much more fun to browse a magazine than the web.
So I started back on a couple of paper magazine and quickly discovered I really don’t like them piling up. Once you go paperless, it’s hard to go back to paper. Then I discovered Next Issue. For $15 a month I got digital access to a library of magazines. (There’s also a $9.99 version with fewer magazine.) I quickly rediscovered just how much I love magazines. The only trouble is they don’t look very good on my iPad 2.
That’s not completely true. Some look much better than others. For the most part the magazines look like their paper versions – I see all the editorial content and the ads. Some even have extras, like animations, film clips, and multiple view of photos, so in a sense they are super-magazines. And some magazines actually reformat their content slightly to take advantage of tablets. So when you get to an article you page down to read it, rather than page right, for a few pages, and then skipping to page 79 to finish the thing. The magazines that use this feature tend to format their content in a larger font that’s easy to read without magnification – and that looks best on older tablets like the iPad 2. Other magazines just give you two views of a static page, one that fits the screen on the tablet, and another brought up by double tapping that is greatly magnified that you slide around with your finger to read.
I’ve been reading for weeks with my old iPad 2, and getting into this new method of magazine reading, all the while thinking about how it could be better. Mostly I thought about having to buy an iPad Air.
I then borrowed my wife’s Kindle Fire HD with a 7” screen and spent an evening reading my favorite magazines. The Kindle HD has much better resolution than the iPad 2, a pre-retina display model. Switching between the two devices, taught me something about reading magazines on a tablet, and made me realize that Apple no longer has a lock on tablet computers. Here’s what I learned:
- Resolution matters – the more the better. Sometimes it’s nicer to read small fonts than to tap and magnify
- 7” tablets are much easier to hold and read for longer periods of time
- 10” tablets make the photos pop out more, so it’s more fun to look at pictures with a larger screen
- If the magazine formats for the tablet, it’s much easier to read on a 7” screen
- If the magazine doesn’t format for the tablet, it’s much easier to read on a 10” screen
- An aspect ratio of 4:3 is probably better for magazines than 16:10, but not always
- I have to use a reading stand with the larger tablet for long periods of reading
- A 7” screen is more conducive of carrying around
- I’d love to be able to print a whole article, or clip it to Evernote. The iOS version of Next Issue will let me AirPrint a page at a time.
- If I could clip an article to Evernote (or .pdf) I could print it from Evernote
- Tablets offer a way for magazines to offer more creative layouts, and even multimedia
Next Issue is far from perfect, but I still feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. I would be happier if I could find just the right tablet, if I could save articles, and if I could get a few more magazines. Of course this is dealing with two different issues. One, can I enjoy reading a magazine exclusively on a tablet and give up print copies? And two, does Next Issue offer everything I want to read?
Next Issue is a disruptive technology in the same way Netflix was a game changer. I essentially stopped buying videos after I adapted to Netflix. Will I give up buying magazines too? Next Issue has a nice selection of over 125 magazines, but it doesn’t have The Atlantic, Scientific American, Discover, Sky and Telescope, Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The New York Review of Books, Linux Journal, and others that I like.
But like I said, that’s two issues when regarding whether can I give up paper magazines for reading magazines on a tablet. If I had a Kindle Fire HDX, either 7” or 8.9” screen, or an Apple iPad Air or Mini with Retina Display, or a Nexus 7 or 10, or Samsung Note 10.1 2014, I might be able to conclusively answer the first part of the question. They have the dots per inch resolution that will make tablets sharp enough to read small print. And they might even make photography stand out more. However, paper still wins on some factors.
If I can’t clip to Evernote or .pdf, printed magazines win on the “tearing an article out to save” factor. Also, for “making a photocopy” factor. They also win on “lending/giving to a friend” factor. But tablets win on “these magazines are driving me crazy piling up around the house” factor. Tablets also win on the “where the hell did I put that magazine” factor. They also win on the “I wish I had that magazine with me” factor because Next issue works from the smartphone and iPod touch.
It’s not hard to see the writing on the wall. Paper and printing will eventually go away. Whether magazine library subscriptions like Next Issue will become standard is still to be decided. Netflix hasn’t killed the DVD buying business, but it’s changed it. Netflix did kill off the local video store, and I wonder if tablets will do that to newsstands?
JWH – 1/5/14