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Going Digital and Paperless with Your Magazines

By | 16 comments


I love reading magazines. When I was a teenager I was hooked on the weekly edition of The Economist. As the years went by and I started to subscribe to more magazines, my resentment towards magazines also grew. I loved consuming interesting content but my room would be cluttered with all these magazines and I hated it. It would grow into a love/hate relationship – on one hand I loved reading but on the other hand I hated the clutter.

So I searched for a solution. As I shifted towards a paperless lifestyle, I found the perfect solution for this – Zinio.

Zinio is an online service where you can subscribe to all major magazines and read them on your phone, desktop or tablet. Reading magazines on your tablet is one of the best things you can do if you’re interested in going paperless with your magazines. You just download their app, login and it will download all the magazines you’re subscribed to.

Initially my search for a solution was to get rid of clutter in my apartment (while still receiving the magazines) but as I started to use Zinio I discovered other hidden advantages of this services. Some of the main advantages of Zinio:

  • No more paper magazines cluttered in my apartment (yay!)
  • All major magazines are available (even from other countries)
  • Discover more magazines you might be interested in that you wouldn’t know about otherwise (with their huge selection there is something for everyone)
  • Cheaper prices (you save a lot of money compared to retail prices)
  • Easy billing management (all in one place)
  • You can buy backlogs of magazines (great for specialized and niche magazines)
  • Available on iOS, android and desktop
  • Save the environment (going green)

Having your billing centralized is a big plus for me. When I had paper subscriptions I would never know when I had to renew or how much it would be, but with Zinio I can just login and have an overview of when my renewal date is and for how much.

Reading Experience

Remember when the tablets first came out? Everyone would say “Reading on a tablet sucks. It’s never going to be as good as having a real book.” I used to be one of them until I bought a Kindle and iPad. Now I refuse to buy paperbacks and hardcovers, and I only buy digital books.

Kindle books and ebooks sales are soaring, and they continue to grow year after year. The same trend goes for digital magazines as more people are shifting towards digital content. I have the same stance on magazines as I have for books – if it’s not available in digital format, I’m not buying it. Fortunately, this hardly is an issue – Zinio has a huge selection of magazines across different countries.

Zinio on iPad

Here's how Zinio looks on my iPad.

The Zinio app makes the reading experience fantastic – especially on an iPad. It’s better than reading a regular PDF where you just swipe pages. You have interactive links so it’s easy to browse around. Most magazines have a table of contents and these are all links. You just tap and you’ll instantly be on the right page. Also, at the bottom of your screen you can see thumbnails of pages that make it very easy to go through pages.

It’s another great thing to have when you have guests over at your place. You just hand them your iPad, open the Zinio app and let them read stuff. I’ve gotten tons of compliments from people on the reading experience and the selection of magazines. Hint: if you’re a single guy, this is a great way to show off to girls how well read you are.

My Subscriptions

If you’re curious what I read, here’s a list of my subscriptions:

  • Macworld
  • Harvard Business Review
  • The Economist
  • Forbes
  • Smart Money
  • Travel + Leisure
  • Esquire
  • Men’s Fitness

As you can see, I read a lot. Unlike most books, you don’t have to read everything in a magazine. It’s easy to skip around and you just read whatever you feel like. This is perfect for reading on a plane, train and those times in the bathroom (admit it, I know you do too!)

BTW: If you’re looking for books, check our list of recommended books.

Getting Zinio


If you want to start going digital and paperless with your magazine subscriptions, I highly recommend Zinio. I’ve tried iBooks, Newsstand and Amazon but their selection is not as good as Zinio’s. The fact that the prices are cheaper on Zinio is a plus (although I would have paid full price just for the convenience) and another reason to make the leap.

Click here to sign up for Zinio.

Photo by nicolasnova.

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Posted by David N. (Dojo)  | August 6, 2016 at 9:33AM | Reply

What about the Texture App — it has similar functionality and competitive pricing. Did the product pay for this review? If so it should be stated.

Posted by Phil  | March 27, 2015 at 7:53PM | Reply

Zinio frustrates me. Any reading app where you can’t copy an article, or even certain sections is just not good imho. I want my digital reading to be like a pdf. Your idea Thanh of screenshots is a workaround, but it’s compensating for a weak app.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | November 5, 2012 at 10:44PM | Reply

Thanks Ruben, I’m going to check it out.

Posted by Ruben Parra  | November 4, 2012 at 1:44AM | Reply

Hi Guys, Great info as always, ‘Next Issue’ is a good alternative off course if the magazines you read are there. :)

Posted by Nathan Zeldes  | October 21, 2012 at 12:46PM | Reply

I can see the advantages, but it’s still recreating an old paper based model in a digital version (and yes, with easier search etc). But an even more useful service occurs to me (though I doubt it’ll happen anytime soon) that goes beyond the old newsstand paradigm: use the agility of digital delivery to allow people to pay for only the content they read within EACH magazine. That is, present the table of contents of all the magazines and let us mix and match and have only the articles we want from each magazine delivered to us all in one batch (and pay accordingly).

Just a thought…

Posted by Thanh Pham  | October 22, 2012 at 5:16PM

I think that’s a great idea although I won’t see that happen anytime soon. The trend I’m seeing is that information is becoming more and more free. But who knows, I could be wrong. In the meantime, I think having digital versions of magazines is a great thing to have.

Posted by Dave  | October 17, 2012 at 8:31PM | Reply

It’s a great app — I use it in my quest to become paperless. My only complaint is the lack of print capability. I know that seems like it defeats the purpose, but sometimes I want to share a particular article with colleagues. If viewing online I can save to PDF and still share electronically — no paper. Or perhaps I want to save a recipe. Other than that it works well for this road warrior!

Posted by Wilson Ng  | October 18, 2012 at 4:13AM

I just use the share feature to either e-mail the article link to myself or share it on the various social networks.

Posted by Wilson Ng  | October 18, 2012 at 4:14AM

oops… I was referring to Flipboard.

Does Zinio have a share button?

I’ve been resisting Zinio because I’m already satisfied with Flipboard and have enough daily deluge to worry about. I’m not yet ready to Zinio and overload my already full plate.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | October 20, 2012 at 7:50PM

Zinio doesn’t really have that. I usually just make screenshots and send them haha.

Posted by omni-impotent  | October 15, 2012 at 5:39AM | Reply

Replacing magazine subscriptions and books to iPad has been sooo pleasing! I travel and move been countries a lot and carrying around books is ridiculous. Not sure about the “Hint: if you’re a single guy, this is a great way to show off to girls how well read you are.” comment though. I’m pretty sure having a well-stocked and thoughtful bookshelf, magazine & DVD rack will still be much more attractive to the ladies. But oh well! Efficiently isn’t all just about the girls. :P

Not sure where you’re getting the $160USD vs $127 for The Economist though. Directly from for the digital subscription only: “51 week subscription for USD 127.00. Four risk-free weeks plus 47 additional weeks for $2.49 per week”. Through, it is $126.99 US. So no difference. :-) That’s the only subscription I read so might not try zinio after all. Also I am quite fond of the Economist app on the ipad. There are other neat features as well.

There are often heavily discounted subscriptions on the daily deal sites as well. Not sure if they are only paper or include digital as well.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | October 15, 2012 at 1:32PM

Weird sauce. On my desktop it clearly says $160. Maybe they are price testing or something.

And I agree, for frequent travelers it’s almost a must to go digital your with magazines.

Posted by Wilson Ng  | October 15, 2012 at 4:05AM | Reply

Maybe I’m crazy but I’ve started to replace magazines with other sources such as RSS feeds and podcasts and dedicated iOS apps. We can acquire new sources of information in other ways now.

I have USA Today and Time Mobile as a full-blown app on my iPad and iPod touch. The feeds may not be as in-depth as the regular magazine is but it often is just enough.

I also found that replacing magazines with other sources such as podcasts helps to provide a variety of new information.

Nowadays, I put my favorite RSS feeds inside Flipboard and consume media from many newspapers and magazines.

I do agree that going digital has helped reduce the insane clutter of physical magazines. But it introduces digital clutter. Every 3 months, I will go over my RSS feeds in Flipboard and start deleting the ones I don’t really read every day. I place them into my RSS feed page and I will look at it every now and then.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | October 15, 2012 at 1:31PM

That’s not that crazy Wilson :-)

I’m a big fan of Flipboard too. I have it hooked on my twitter and FB account to discover new content. RSS is sort of starting to become an extinct technology, I don’t how much longer it will be around. My feeling is that FB feeds and Twitter are slowly replacing RSS, but I could be wrong.

Posted by Jonathan  | October 12, 2012 at 8:46AM | Reply

First: Goodness, where you you find the time to read all those magazines!?

Second: I’ve looked at Zinio (and other digital magazine platforms) and find them to be outrageously priced when compared to their paper version. Many magazines I’ve looked at can be closer to the cover price than what you can get the paper version for.

National geographic, for example, I get in paper for $9.99/year, and Zinio has it for $19.99/year.

Macworld: $24/year on Zinio, $19.97 at most places, look harder and find it for $14.97 — even directly from Macworld in paper PLUS ipad edition is less than Zinio at $21.97

Before I go digital on my magazines, the price needs to drop to below the printed version. After all, I’m even more apt to click on interactive ads in the digital version, which makes the publisher more money — they should want to get it in the hands of more people.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | October 12, 2012 at 11:15AM

Haha yeah I like to read I guess :-)

That’s interesting about the pricing because almost all of my subscriptions are cheaper (or similarly priced) via Zinio. For example, The Economist retails at $160 but at Zinio it’s $127. Men’s Fitness is $15 both on Zinio and retail. Macworld is more expensive on Zinio but since all my magazine subscriptions are managed in one place, I don’t mind paying a little more for the convenience (not to mention no clutter).

If you’re really on a budget, you can probably save money by getting the digital app of each publication. Most of them have the same price as advertised on Zinio or are slightly cheaper. But then you also have to manage your billing separately on all websites which is not really worth my time – it’s much easier to have that in one place. It’s much easier to subtract the business expenses that way ;-)

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